IPCC Report Highlights Hydrogen's Critical Role in Fight Against Climate Change

IPCC Report Highlights Hydrogen's Critical Role in Fight Against Climate Change

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a dire picture of our warming world. Released just a few weeks before Earth Day, the assessment reveals that current national pledges to cut carbon are not sufficient to limit global warming to under 1.5°C. But there’s hope: nations around the world can meet the challenge by deploying vital decarbonization strategies immediately and at scale.

The report finds that even if all countries meet their nationally determined contributions in 2030, warming will likely exceed 1.5°C this century. In fact, global emissions must peak by 2025 to avoid the worst impacts, including glacial melting and rising sea levels, stronger and more deadly hurricanes and tornadoes, widespread droughts and wildfires, and destruction of coral reefs. In other words, it would be a much different world than the one that celebrated the inaugural Earth Day in 1970.

But importantly, the findings aren’t all doom and gloom. "We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming,” explained IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee, with the report noting that existing solutions could cut emissions by 40-70% by 2030. These solutions include lowering energy consumption, electrifying transportation, and integrating alternative fuels such as hydrogen.

The IPCC highlights low-emission hydrogen as one of the key technologies that the world must urgently invest in to address the effects of climate change. It also underlines the critical importance of cutting emissions in sectors that aren’t easily electrified, such as industrial manufacturing and related processes. "This sector accounts for about a quarter of global emissions,” the report says. "Achieving net zero will be challenging and will require new production processes, low and zero emissions electricity, hydrogen, and, where necessary, carbon capture and storage.” Decarbonizing the building blocks of the 21st-century economy will be even more important as the standards of living of billions of people in developing countries rise.

Clean hydrogen is uniquely suited to decarbonize these hard-to-abate processes, but that’s not the only area where it can help. In addition to its properties as a clean industrial feedstock, low-carbon hydrogen is complementary to electrification, as hydrogen can increase the resiliency of electrical systems that are dependent on variable wind and solar power. Serving as primary or backup source, hydrogen used in turbines or fuel cell stacks can generate power to keep hospitals and data centers running.

Hydrogen can also be used as a fuel for transportation and shipping by air, land, and sea. While most focus on hydrogen’s ability to decarbonize heavy-duty and long-haul trucking, it can also play a key role in reducing hard-to-abate emissions from maritime shipping, via liquid hydrogen or as ammonia, which is recognized as a convenient transportation method for hydrogen. And aviation companies like Airbus are exploring how hydrogen can complement sustainable aviation fuels to bring down emissions in air travel.

The findings in the IPCC report are a plea for the world to do more immediately; to address climate change, especially as Earth Day 2022 rolls around at a particularly turbulent time. As leaders around the world scramble to react to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, triggering immediate, seismic shifts in the energy landscape, we are reminded that we must continue to build strategies addressing the longer-term threat of climate change.