Our last chance to avoid climate change disaster
Thu, 10 Nov 2011 2:58p.m.
By Sarah DiLorenzo
The International Energy Agency has warned that the world is hurtling toward irreversible climate change and will lose the chance to limit warming if it doesn't take bold action in the next five years.
In its annual World Energy Outlook, the agency spelled out the consequences if those steps aren't taken and what needs to be done to cap global temperature increases at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. That is the threshold beyond which some scientists have said catastrophic changes could be triggered.
But the agency's chief economist, Fatih Birol, said this week that he is not optimistic that leaders are willing to make the necessary sacrifices.
"We are going in the wrong direction in terms of climate change," he said in an interview ahead of the report's official release.
He noted, for instance, that governments around the world have put increasing energy efficiency at the top of their to-do lists, but efficiency has worsened for two years in a row now.
Birol said such backslides have real consequences.
"After 2017, we will lose the chance to limit the temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius," he said.
The report said that the current promises to reduce emissions, when taken together, will likely result in an increase of more than 3.5 degrees Celsius - and there isn't any guarantee those commitments will even be carried out. Without them, the picture is bleaker: an increase of 6 degrees Celsius or more.
Birol said the world doesn't lack the technology to tackle the problem - just the political will.
"Even with existing technologies, you can improve substantially, but to do that, you need some price incentives and these price incentives are not there," he said.
In fact, there are incentives to consume more: The report said subsidies for fossil fuels have risen past US$400 billion. Birol said those need to be cut and instead a price needs to be levied on carbon. Only when "dirty" fuels become more expensive, he said, will governments follow through on their commitments to increase energy efficiency.
The report pushes hard the need to increase efficiency, generally considered the easiest way to reduce consumption since it has a price-incentive built in. It has become even more important since Japan's nuclear accident sparked a rethinking of the use of atomic technology previously seen as key to cutting emissions.
"The most important contribution to reaching energy security and climate goals comes form the energy that we do not consume," the report said.
It also predicted that oil prices would rise over the long term, though a weak global economy and the return of Libyan oil to the market would ease short-term pressures.
How high the price goes will depend, in part, on whether investors are willing to cough up what the Middle East and North Africa needs to keep pumping. Birol said last month that unrest in the region has made investors reluctant to pour money in.
Post a Comment
Before commenting, please take the time to read our moderation guide
(Won't be published)
13/11/2011 1:45:20 p.m.
Sarah, I like the awareness you are creating, keep it up. The implications of these changes are far beyond some of the comments above. Businesses need to start taking responsibility. Small businesses need to get involved too and take the attitude that they can in fact make a difference. A simple example would be to use a bicycle courier where appropriate, It's probably more cost effective also. If the preservation of the environment alone is not enough, think about how your environmental policies can be used as an effective marketing tool. Why not take it a bit more seriously? There's plenty of potential customers that care.
12/11/2011 9:46:50 p.m.
BTW... Polar bears cannot be spokesanimals for anything. Its not in their job description. Give a polar bear a municipal garbage dump and they are totally content with life. Some rotting meat and MacDonalds rubbish and all their Sundays have come at once. Quit trying to load human values on the poor buggers.
12/11/2011 10:48:14 a.m.
From the unravelling of the PENN STATE University cover-ups of Paedophilia and Climate Fraud I would say the RED GREEN brigade have foot in both camps!.
11/11/2011 4:46:41 p.m.
They said the same thing 11 years ago, and TONY it wasnt the loony left that invented this money go round.Let me give you a hint as to who might be behind this scam, they used fear to implement the first world wide tax and they managed to tax one of the building blocks of life on this planet. What other set of laws was brought in using fear? Terrorism. This time they utilised the green movement, and people power works. Gore is a corporate, he used to be in the tobacco industry for gods sake.Conspiracy theorists have been saying this is a scam for years, intent on forcing world unity and economic domination.It wasnt until I studied geology that the implications of climategate became obvious.
10/11/2011 9:01:57 p.m.
As long as the population keeps going up things will get worse. Even if we lower our consumption by 20% if the population grows by 30% we lose. Besides co2 is more likely the effect rather than the cause of global warming and it isnt irreversable as its happened before and gone back the other way again.
10/11/2011 7:39:03 p.m.
The point everone seems to miss is our out of control egoic consumption, the question and root cause of this consumption needs to be considered.
10/11/2011 6:42:39 p.m.
What a load of bollocks! There is very little we (mankind) can do to stop what has been going on for millenia. It has nothing to do withmankind, CO2 or any other ideas the loony left can come up with. Europe has spent hundreds of billions of Euro's on this over the last decade for "no measurable difference". It is yet another tax/money grab, plain and simple. Get a life, IEA, and get over yourselves!
10/11/2011 5:58:57 p.m.
I for one are looking forward to a bit more warmth. Also to see more of the Chicken Littles screaming out that the sky is falling (again). Life is much more interesting when its all going a bit weird!!!
10/11/2011 5:25:47 p.m.
Steve they wont even explain the rising temperatures on other planets in our solar system, but at least respected scientist are now openly pointing to the fact it is connected to the sun and that solar activity is showing we are in fact heading into a period of global cooling.
10/11/2011 4:39:04 p.m.
Can the International Energy Agency explain global warming prior to man walking this earth? What about the global temperature changes that the earth has had since prehistoric times? To the best of my ability, we (Mother Earth) have had many ice ages and then warming. What caused that to happen I wonder? Man and his motor car?
Te Papa is our national museum but is it now a national disgrace?
A massive ice wave has ploughed through lakeside cottages in Canada and the United States near the border.
The two parties have settled a long-running legal battle which involves a financial settlement in exchange for assistance in an extradition case.
A Soyuz space capsule carrying a three-man crew from the International Space Station has landed safely on the steppes of Kazakhstan.
Nanotechnology expert Michelle Dickinson appeared on Firstline this morning to discuss the week's top science news.
Copyright © 2013 MediaWorks TV. All Rights Reserved.