This week the International Energy Agency (IEA) released their yearly World Energy Outlook report. The energy report contained a very urgent call for action on climate. The IEA report warned that if our energy infrastructure is not rapidly changed the world will head towards irreversible climate change in five years. At the same time the US department of energy released new figures showing a “monster increase” in greenhouse gas emissions.
IEA predicts that over the next five years the world will build so many dirty factories, fossil-fuelled power stations and energy inefficient buildings that it will become impossible for us to stop global warming from rushing past safe climate levels. And so they warn that our last chance against dangerous climate change will be lost forever. Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said that “the door is closing.”
“I am very worried – if we don’t change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum for safety. The door will be closed forever.”
Everything that produces greenhouse gas emissions, such as dirty coal plants and other fossil-fueled power stations, which are being constructed from now on, will continue to spew out carbon for decades to come. And this will lock the world on a path towards irreversible climate change with disastrous effects. The Guardian reports:
“If the world is to stay below 2C of warming, which scientists regard as the limit of safety, then emissions must be held to no more than 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; the level is currently around 390ppm. But the world’s existing infrastructure is already producing 80% of that “carbon budget”, according to the IEA’s analysis, published on Wednesday. This gives an ever-narrowing gap in which to reform the global economy on to a low-carbon footing.
If current trends continue, and we go on building high-carbon energy generation, then by 2015 at least 90% of the available “carbon budget” will be swallowed up by our energy and industrial infrastructure. By 2017, there will be no room for manoeuvre at all – the whole of the carbon budget will be spoken for, according to the IEA’s calculations.”
A couple of days before the IEA “bombshell” the US department of energy released another gloomy report which showed that global carbon dioxide emissions rose with 6% in 2010, greatly exceeding the worst case scenario outlined by the IPCC. Al Jazeera English reports:
“In 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its last large report on global warming, it used different scenarios for carbon dioxide pollution, and said the rate of warming would be based on the rate of pollution.
Tom Boden (director of the Energy Department’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee) said the latest figures put global emissions higher than the worst case projections from the climate panel. Those forecast global temperatures rising between 2.4 and 6.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century with the best estimate at four degrees Celsius.”
According to the report the world released around 564 million more tonnes of carbon emissions into the air during the last year compared to previous levels in 2009. The increase in emissions mainly comes from China and the USA which alone stood for more than half of the emissions in 2010. But more and more emissions come from developing countries. “We really need to get the developing world because if we don’t, the problem is going to be running away from us,” climate scientist Andrew Weaver from the University of Victoria said. “And the problem is pretty close from running away from us.” But “the more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing,” John Reilly, co-director of MIT’s Joint Programme on the Science and Policy of Global Change, said.
It’s now clearer than ever. We must start to aggressively change our high-carbon energy systems to more clean and renewable energy sources, scrap our massive fossil fuel subsidies and deploy a myriad of climate policies such as a carbon tax. We only have a few remaining years to make a difference until we must face certain and worldwide climate catastrophe. It looks grim, really grim to be honest. But we can’t give up just yet. Let’s put up a good fight.
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