Our planet is warming, and we’re to blame. Burning of fossil fuels adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which insulates the atmosphere and traps heat. To try and combat this, countries and energy companies are investing in cleaner energy sources like wind and solar. But , first reported by the , the very problem these initiatives are trying to solve might be making wind power less effective.
Two recent studies have examined how wind currents will change in the future as the Earth gets warmer. According to , most climate predictions will lead to lower wind speeds across much of the Northern Hemisphere. Wind farms in the United States, Europe, and China will likely see lower energy output a decade from now.
The second study looks at the amount of wind energy generated in China over the past few decades, and finds evidence that this decrease is already happening. , wind farms in Mongolia and Gansu have lost around 15 percent of their wind power since 1980.
On some level, this isn’t all that surprising. Wind happens because the Sun’s light heats different parts of the planet to different levels, creating regions of high energy and low energy. Air flows from regions of high energy to regions of low energy, creating wind. Climate change messes up that balance, making cold regions warm and warm regions cold, so we should expect a little less wind.
But even though this result isn’t terribly surprising, it still stings. Wind is currently the most successful renewable resource, and knowing that it’ll get about 10 percent less effective over the next 30 years—as one of the studies predicts—means our future is even more bleak than we thought.
This doesn’t mean wind power is obsolete—it’s still the cheapest energy option for much of the world, even taking this new information into account—but it does mean we’ll have to work harder to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
And after last week’s news that the worst case climate change scenarios are probably the most accurate ones, things aren't looking up.