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At least three quarters of the world's power must come from clean sources by the end of this century to sufficiently limit global warming, according to estimates released in this week's Science.

The study shows that even the most conservative estimates of future warming point to a need for tremendous amounts of clean power development.

"To reduce carbon dioxide emissions and avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we must switch to alternative, carbon-free energy sources," says a co-author Atul Jain of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States.

The researchers analysed how uncertainties about the way in which climate responds to greenhouse gas concentrations affects the amount of non-polluting power that is needed to keep global warming below 2°C.

They say that a massive shift towards clean energy is required, estimating that the equivalent of a zero-emissions power plant would need to be created somewhere in the world every day for the next 50 years in order to keep global warming in check.

"Given the long lead times needed for market penetration of new energy technologies, we need to develop appropriate energy technologies now," they conclude.

© SciDev.Net 2003

Reference: Science 299, 2052 (2003)

Photo credit: Minnkota  Power Cooperative, Inc./NREL