According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world is currently backing itself into a corner where irreversible climate change will most likely occur in just five years. The Agency — an autonomous organization that provides comprehensive statistics and recommendations for world leaders on energy — just released their 2011 World Energy Outlook, the most comprehensive analysis yet of the world energy infrastructure. The agency found that with the amount of fossil fuel-run buildings and factories that are set to be built in the next five years, the human race will finally be locked into the critical mass of emissions that will push the Earth past the point of no return. The only way to turn back on this deadly course to a global climate change of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit is to immediately change direction toward low-emission technology but looking at the IEA statistics doesn’t give much us hope that such a major change will occur.
The IEA was founded in response to the 1974/1975 oil crisis by the governments of 16 countries including The United States, The United Kingdom and Germany and now has 28 member countries. The organization has been providing comprehensive and reliable statistics and recommendations of action to those countries for almost four decades. Their yearly publications on everything from energy efficiency improvements, emissions by country and the outlook on the world’s future energy status are highly regarded and oft quoted texts. Thus, this warning of irreversible climate change is no small statement, it is coming from the most knowledgeable people on the subject and is being said with certainty and hope for a shift in policy and practice.
The IEA is basing their warning on the world consensus to not let global temperatures change more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to do so there has been a consensus that we we need to keep global carbon emissions below 450 parts per million until the year 2035. They call this the 450 Scenario — this is a projection that was made and accepted by global leaders to help halt global emissions within a safe distance of irreversible climate change. According to the IEA, we are already at four-fifths of the carbon emissions permitted in 2035 under the 450 Scenario with our current amount of fossil fuel-burning buildings, factories and infrastructure. With the additional projected fossil fuel-burning buildings, factories and infrastructure set to be built in the next five years we will, by 2017, emit all of the carbon allowed in the 450 scenario eighteen years ahead of schedule.
For every coal-fired power plant we build, we could instead be ensuring a safe future with a geothermal power plant, a wind farm or a hydropower plant. Instead we are moving forward, continuously building infrastructure with yesterday’s technology. In addition, the IEA states that in the rush to build cheap carbon spewing factories, buildings and infrastructure we are living in a false economy. With every $1 not spent on renewable energy-based infrastructure in the next five years, we’ll have to spend an additional $4.30 after 2020 in order to reduce the then outrageous carbon emissions. “As each year passes without clear signals to drive investment in clean energy, the “lock-in” of high-carbon infrastructure is making it harder and more expensive to meet our energy security and climate goals,” said Fatih Birol, IEA Chief Economist.
“Growth, prosperity and rising population will inevitably push up energy needs over the coming decades. But we cannot continue to rely on insecure and environmentally unsustainable uses of energy,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “Governments need to introduce stronger measures to drive investment in efficient and low-carbon technologies. The Fukushima nuclear accident, the turmoil in parts of the Middle East and North Africa and a sharp rebound in energy demand in 2010 which pushed CO2 emissions to a record high, highlight the urgency and the scale of the challenge.”
Via The Guardian