Conservative Energy Agency’s warning that ‘lock in’ to irreversible climate change only 5 years away far too optimistic; reality even more dire


Excerpts from Time to Derail Fossil Fuel Train, Energy Agency Warns, Stephen Leahy, IPS (Links added by climateye)

Countries have chained themselves to a fossil fuel train that is headed straight off a cliff, warns the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Without a bold change of policy direction, the world will lock itself into an insecure, inefficient and high-carbon energy system, the IEA said Wednesday in London on the release of the 2011 World Energy Outlook.

…the conservative IEA called for urgent action by governments to massively shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy and boost energy efficiency. Without a major shift in priorities in the next five years, there will be enough fossil fuel infrastructure in place to guarantee a two-degree C rise in temperatures, it warned…

…”Delaying action is a false economy,” the World Energy Outlook report emphasises. Every dollar of investment in cleaner technology before 2020 avoids the need to spend an additional 4.30 dollars after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions, it said.

No climate scientist considers a two-degree C temperature increase “safe”. In fact, many experts, along with more than 100 countries, want overall global warming to be limited to less than 1.5 degrees C.

The burning of fossil fuels has already pushed the global average temp 0.8 C higher, triggering a number of documented large- scale changes, including record numbers of extreme weather events, record melt of Arctic sea ice, spring arriving two to four weeks earlier, and much more.

The IEA’s urgent recommendations come on the heels of a U.S. Department of Energy announcement last week that global carbon emissions jumped six percent in 2010, the biggest increase ever. That puts the world on the road to a worst case scenario of six degrees C of global warming by 2100.

The IEA is anything but radical or unconventional. Created in 1974 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) after the 1973 oil crisis, its focus was providing reliable and scientific information on the global oil supply. The Paris-based IEA now provides info and research on all forms of energy. In 2007, it awoke to the role energy plays in the climate change crisis.

“Every year, the IEA moves closer and closer to our energy scenarios,” said Sven Teske, senior energy expert at Greenpeace International.

However, it still under-represents the role of energy efficiency and over-represents the role of nuclear and carbon capture and storage in meeting future energy needs, Teske told IPS.

“IEA has been driven by political agendas to keep a prominent role of nuclear power and CO2- capturing coal power plants in its scenarios, despite their obvious failure to deliver against false expectations,” he said…

…”The IEA is still moving far too slow,” Teske said. It continues to underplay the role of solar, and the idea that carbon capture and storage (CCS) can adequately reduce emissions from coal is nonsense, he said…

…the IEA continues to foster the perception that there is still a major role for the fossil fuel sector in meeting the world’s energy needs for many decades to come. That indirectly assures the financial industry that continued investments in existing and new fossil fuel infrastructure are a good bet, Teske said…

…The World Energy Outlook has previously called on governments to end their annual 409-billion-dollar subsidies handout to the fossil fuel industry. However, no governments have substantially reduced those subsidies, demonstrating one of the major challenges of getting off the fossil fuel train. (End of excerpts.)

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But We’ve Already Gone Way Too Far

The neighborhood of +6C global average temperature increase beyond pre-industrial (1900) levels is considered unlivable for most life.  A rise of +3C would assure the catastrophic collapse of agriculture worldwide.  In vulnerable climates like Africa, this tip would begin at +1C and occur through the lead up to +2C (billions hungry or starved).

The 2007 IPCC reports, and the supposed +2C ‘safe limit’ threshold that has most often been sited in international climate negotiations, articles, reports like the IEA’s WEO 2011 mentioned above, and even by many environmental organizations, are dangerous, outdated underestimates of the present state, and accelerating pace, of global climate disruption.

  • See more resources at the bottom of this post

On our ‘business as usual’ emissions path, the UK Met Office warns +4C by 2055 is very plausible.  It has been suggested that only 10% of humanity could survive.  And not pleasantly.  And not for too long because +4C leads to +6C (from the inertia of latent heat built up in the climate system — see item 3 below).  Decades sooner there would be drastic compromise to water and food security worldwide.  As mentioned above, in many ways and places, there already is.

3 key concerns:

  • The degree of risk associated with the likelihood of non-linear decline, tipping points beyond which ‘runaway‘ momentum becomes irreversible, and the potential in various climate systems for sudden, abrupt change is NOT calculated;

Bottom line

  • RIGHT NOW, our shared atmosphere is on an accelerating course to reach a state of potentially unsurvivable, runaway climate extremes during the lives of today’s children;

If the umbrella crisis of climate breakdown / disruption / destabilization is not tackled FAST, the impacts — severe threats to global agriculture, fresh water scarcity and multi-regional insecurity and instability — will make it impossible to address ALL other global issues and causes.

IEA warns ‘lock in’ to irreversible climate change only 5 years away

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