IEA warns world headed for irreversible climate change in five years, greenhouse emissions soaring

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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Simon Leufstedt
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This is just really sad and scary. I wish more people took this seriously and that there were more stringent laws to help with this....

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Guest O.C. Heaton

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It’s a sorry state of affairs but it’s real, very real. Forget hitting our carbon emissions targets, soon, as you say, the impact of our carbon output will become irreversible. We need to be proactive in combatting this problem, of course, but we also need to realise that we all need to alter our lifestyles to live in, what will soon be, a changed world. Here are some of my ideas about how we can adapt to live in a carbon-choked future: Avoid the coast. If sea temperatures rise by as much as predicted, you don’t want to be too close to the ocean. If you are, make sure you are high up.Even if you are inland, be careful. If you are thinking of buying a house, I would study flood plains in great detail and ensure I was as high above the waterline as possible.Sell your overseas holiday home because the weather abroad will probably get worse and the UK is getting warmer. Get into technology, particularly communications. We are likely to travel less, but there are new alternatives to being physically present. I can definitely see a swing back to local existences. It makes sense: travel will be harder, there will be less holidaying abroad and more things will be made locally.

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An interesting report indeed. For anyone who wishes to learn more about sustainability and energy issues I strongly suggest you check out this upcoming Agrion Energy Conference. The event will touch upon of variety of subjects involved in energy security and renewables with key figures from the government and large businesses discussing these issues. Here is the link: http://www.agrion.org/sessions/agrion-ny-Residential_Demand_Response_and_Enabling_Technologies_.htm

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Guest D. A. Ryan

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The IEA is rapidly be coming the Cassandra come lately of energy issues. An entity setup to ring the alarm bell in advance of any future energy crisis they spent the last decade saying, conventional peak oil? not till 2030-2035!...anyone who say's its sooner? they're crazy....its not coming till the mid 2030's....we expect big increases in middle east production soon......until 2009...peak conventional oil? oh! it happened in 2006! I'd be laughing if it weren't so serious. Alot of people don't realise how much clout this orginisation has and how it is considered the gospel by many the energy departments of many governments and corporations. While I can certainly credit their number crunching skills, I think we can conclude that their ability to predict the future trends is pants! Suffice to say if the IEA is starting to ring the bell on global warming, then we should be very concerned and need to impress upon policy makers that this should be treated as a very big red warning light.

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I know it is tough and expensive to get certain countries to catch up with other developing nations who should change their ways of creating energy but it is our responsibility as a whole to make the world safer environmentally. So, we fund wars to get nations together to fight another so why can't we band our capital together to help a nation create safe energy? http://www.greenzliving.com

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Guest Msaylor

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My NYE resolution was to become more green.  Thanks to the popularity of the green movement, you'll find more earth friendly products in stores, but not all of them are cracked up to be what they say there are and fall short of really being green.  So, I did some research and found a company, Pure and Gentle Soap, that not only has products that are earth friendly, but also take pride that their product is made in a carbon neutral facility!  Even their packaging is super earth friendly!  Check them out if you're interested!  www.pureandgentlesoap.com

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