"Let's start with the big picture and talk about the extent of global warming," the secretary-general of the e-Parliament, Nicholas Dunlop, said on Friday as he prepared to host an anti-global warming public parliamentary forum in Taipei yesterday.
Dunlop was addressing the question as to why the e-parliament, a forum based in the UK that aims to bring together democratic legislative bodies from around the world and foster exchanges of good policy ideas, is singling out the issue of global warming from a list of other issues ranging from health to advancements in aerospace.
Global warming is caused by an increase of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, and the most important greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide.
The main source of the additional carbon that humans are emitting comes from burning coal, oils and gas, Dunlop said, adding that deforestation is an important secondary factor.
Greenhouse gas traps heat on the earth that would have otherwise been released into space and has caused the earth's temperature to rise 0.6oC since pre-industrialization, he said, adding that the future implications are unpredictable but are expected to be detrimental.
Describing the problem as of an "unprecedented scale," Dunlop said that two problems exist in the challenge to fight climate change.
"The first is a lack of political will -- we have the technology and policy tools we need ? [Yet] we are in danger of wrecking the entire planet for a lack of political leadership," he said. "The second problem is that we have a global decision-making process in the UN's climate talk that is cumbersome, requiring the consensus of some 200 governments."
The role of the e-parliament in the issue is two-fold -- to help congresses muster the political will to combat the world's energy crisis and rising temperature; and to expedite the process of reaching an agreement between countries so that real action can be taken, Dunlop said.
Another priority of the forum is to allow advanced countries to help the 2 billion people in developing countries gain modern energy services, he said.
"This can be achieved with the usage of clean energy," he said.
Although clean energy technologies include hydropower, biogas, wave and tidal energy, the e-parliament focuses on solar photovoltaic (PV), wind power, and above all solar thermal power, because of their versatile applications and mature development for mass deployment, he said.
"Solar thermal powers are generated in the world's dry zones, particularly deserts, where mirrors are used to concentrate the sun's heat, boil water and drive a conventional steam turbine," Dunlop said. "To provide energy for the entire world, you wouldn't have to cover more than 300 by 300 kilometers of deserts with these mirrors -- again, the problem boils down to a political decision on how many mirrors we want to build; if we had a decision, we could switch to solar thermal energy right now."
Citing Germany's successful policy change as an example that made it a world leader in renewable energy, Dunlop said that with governmental support and incentives, the switch needn't start big.
"Four or five legislators in the German Bundestag got together in 2000 and drafted a new Renewable Energy Law with guaranteed good prices [feed-in tariffs] for different types of renewable energy being fed into the National Grid," he said. "Germany is not even a very sunny country, but it now possesses 55 percent of the global PV surface."