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Irreversible Climate Change Looms Within Five Years November 9, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment.
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Roger’s note: “forever” is a long time.
 
Published on Wednesday, November 9, 2011 by Environment News Service

 

LONDON – Unless there is a “bold change of policy direction,” the world will lock itself into an insecure, inefficient and high-carbon energy system, the International Energy Agency warned at the launch of its 2011 World Energy Outlook today in London.

Coal-fired power generating station in Shanxi, China. (Photo courtesy Skoda Export) The report says there is still time to act, but despite steps in the right direction the door of opportunity is closing.

The agency’s warning comes at a critical time in international climate change negotiations, as governments prepare for the annual UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa, from November 28.

“If we do not have an international agreement whose effect is put in place by 2017, then the door will be closed forever,” IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol warned today.

“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,” she said.

“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,” van der Hoeven said.

Some key trends are pointing in worrying directions, the agency told reporters today. CO2 emissions have rebounded to a record high, the energy efficiency of global economy worsened for second straight year and spending on oil imports is near record highs.

In the World Energy Outlook’s central New Policies Scenario, which assumes that recent government commitments are implemented in a cautious manner, primary energy demand increases by one-third between 2010 and 2035, with 90 percent of the growth in non-OECD economies.

In the New Policies Scenario, cumulative carbon dioxide emissions over the next 25 years amount to three-quarters of the total from the past 110 years, leading to a long-term average temperature rise of 3.5 degrees C.

“Were the new policies not implemented, we are on an even more dangerous track, to an increase of six degrees C.

The IEA projects that China will consolidate its position as the world’s largest energy consumer. It consumes nearly 70 percent more energy than the United States by 2035, even though, by then, per capita demand in China is still less than half the level in the United States.

The share of fossil fuels in global primary energy consumption falls from around 81 percent today to 75 percent in 2035.

Renewables increase from 13 percent of the mix today to 18 percent in 2035; the growth in renewables is underpinned by subsidies that rise from $64 billion in 2010 to $250 billion in 2035, support that in some cases cannot be taken for granted in this age of fiscal austerity.

By contrast, subsidies for fossil fuels amounted to $409 billion in 2010.

“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 Birol.

The World Energy Outlook also presents a 450 Scenario, which traces an energy path consistent with meeting the globally agreed goal of limiting the temperature rise to two degrees Celsuis above pre-industrial levels.

Four-fifths of the total energy-related CO2 emissions permitted to 2035 in the 450 Scenario are already locked in by existing capital stock, including power stations, buildings and factories, the report finds.

Without further action by 2017, the energy-related infrastructure then in place would generate all the CO2 emissions allowed in the 450 Scenario up to 2035.

“Delaying action is a false economy,” Birol warned, saying that for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011
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Climate Discord: From Hopenhagen to Nopenhagen December 24, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Environment, Uncategorized.
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“Many feel that Obama’s disruption of the process in Copenhagen may have fatally derailed 20 years of climate talks.”
Published on Wednesday, December 23, 2009 by TruthDig.com

by Amy Goodman

Barack Obama said, minutes before racing out of the U.N. climate summit, “We will not be legally bound by anything that took place here today.” These were among his remarks made to his own small White House press corps, excluding the 3,500 credentialed journalists covering the talks. It was late on Dec. 18, the last day of the summit, and reports were that the negotiations had failed. Copenhagen, which had been co-branded for the talks on billboards with Coke and Siemens as “Hopenhagen,” was looking more like “Nopenhagen.”

As I entered the Bella Center, the summit venue, that morning, I saw several dozen people sitting on the cold stone plaza outside the police line. Throughout the summit, people had filled this area, hoping to pick up credentials. Thousands from nongovernmental organizations and the press waited hours in the cold, only to be denied. On the final days of the summit, the area was cold and empty.

Most groups had been stripped of their credentials so the summit could meet the security and space needs for traveling heads of state, the U.N. claimed. These people sitting in the cold were engaged in a somber protest: They were shaving their heads. One woman told me, “I am shaving my head to show how really deeply touched I feel about what is happening in there. … There are 6 billion people out there, and inside they don’t seem to be talking about them.” She held a white sign, with just a pair of quotation marks, but no words. “What does the sign say?” I asked her. She had tears in her eyes, “It says nothing because I don’t know what to say anymore.”

Obama reportedly heard Friday of a meeting taking place between the heads of state of China, India, Brazil and South Africa, and burst into the room, leading the group to consensus on “The Copenhagen Accord.” One hundred ninety-three countries were represented at the summit, most of them by their head of state. Obama and his small group defied U.N. procedure, resulting in the nonbinding, take-it-or-leave-it document.

The accord at least acknowledges that countries “agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science … so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.” For some, after eight years with President George W. Bush, just having a U.S. president who accepts science as a basis for policy might be considered a huge victory. The accord pledges “a goal of mobilizing jointly 100 billion dollars a year by 2020” for developing countries. This is less than many say is needed to solve the problem of adapting to climate change and building green economies in developing countries, and is only a nonbinding goal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to specify the U.S. share, only saying if countries didn’t come to an agreement it would not be on the table anymore.

Respected climate scientist James Hansen told me, “The wealthy countries are trying to basically buy off these countries that will, in effect, disappear,” adding, “based on our contribution to the carbon in the atmosphere, [the U.S. share] would be 27 percent, $27 billion per year.”

I asked Bolivian President Evo Morales for his solution. He recommends “all war spending be directed towards climate change, instead of spending it on troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan or the military bases in Latin America.” According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2008 the 15 countries with the highest military budgets spent close to $1.2 trillion on armed forces.

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, one of the major NGOs stripped of credentials, criticized the outcome of the Copenhagen talks, writing: “The United States slammed through a flimsy agreement that was negotiated behind closed doors. The so-called ‘Copenhagen Accord’ is full of empty pledges.” But he also applauded “concerned citizens who marched, held vigils and sent messages to their leaders, [who] helped to create unstoppable momentum in the global movement for climate justice.”

Many feel that Obama’s disruption of the process in Copenhagen may have fatally derailed 20 years of climate talks. But Pica has it right. The Copenhagen climate summit failed to reach a fair, ambitious and binding agreement, but it inspired a new generation of activists to join what has emerged as a mature, sophisticated global movement for climate justice.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2009 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 800 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.