Climate change deadline 5 years - IEA

2011-11-10 07:22

Paris - The world has just five years to avoid being trapped in a scenario of perilous climate change and extreme weather events, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned on Wednesday.

On current trends, "rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change", the IEA concluded in its annual World Energy Outlook report.

"The door to 2.0 C is closing," it said, referring to the 2°C cap on global warming widely accepted by scientists and governments as the ceiling for averting unmanageable climate damage.

Without further action, by 2017 the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions compatible with the 2°C goal will be "locked in" by power plants, factories and other carbon-emitting sources either built or planned, the IEA said.

Global infrastructure already accounts for more than 75% of that limit.


To meet energy needs while still averting climate catastrophe, governments must engineer a shift away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels, the agency said bluntly.

"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 IEA chief economist Fatih Birol.

The report outlines two scenarios for future energy consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases.

A "new policies" scenario incorporates existing government promises into a projection up to 2035.

A "450 scenario" lays out a timetable for curbing carbon emissions so that atmospheric concentration of CO2 stays under 450 parts per million (ppm), roughly equivalent to the 2°C target.

The current level is about 390ppm.

Even taking into account current commitments, CO2 emitted over the next 25 years will amount to three-quarters of the total emitted since 1900, leading to a 3.5°C average increase in temperature since that date.

Violent extremes

Business-as-usual emissions would put the world "on an even more dangerous track toward an increase of 6°C", the report says.

Scientists who have modelled the impacts on biodiversity, agriculture and human settlement say a 6°C world would be close to unliveable due to violent extremes of drought, flooding, heat waves and storms.

The planet's average temperature has risen by about 1°C over the last century, with forecasts for future warming ranging from an additional 1°C to 5°C by 2100.

The report forecasts a one-third jump in primary energy demand by 2035, with 90% of this growth in developing economies.

Half of that demand will likely be met by increased use of coal, the most carbon-intensive of all major fossil fuels.

China - already the world's top coal consumer - is on track to use nearly 70% more energy than the US by that date, it says.

Even under the "new policies" scenario progress toward a low-carbon economy will be halting.

Urgent call

The share of fossil fuels in global primary energy consumption falls from around 81% today to 75% in 2035, while renewables increase from 13% of the mix today to 18%.

This scenario already assumes a huge boost in subsidies for renewables, from $64bn today to $250bn in 2035.

"One wonders how many more worrying figures the world needs," said Connie Hedegaard, the European Union's climate commissioner.

The report "shows that the world is heading for a fossil-fuel lock-in. This is another urgent call to move to a low-carbon economy," she said in a statement.

Setting a global price on carbon, slashing fossil fuel subsidies, boosting renewable energy and energy efficiency and revised tax codes are all tools for achieving that end, she added.

  • Smell - 2011-11-10 07:55

    A society apparently needs an average of 2.1 children per family to survive. But it is the average of more than 3 that is going to kill as all. Cannot see how us humankind will be able to limit our carbon footprint with the biggest epidemic to ever threaten the planet - mindless human procreation. I beg our leaders to start taking family planning seriously.

  • Aquarius3811 - 2011-11-10 08:39

    Its already beyond the point of no return... all these so called scientists and politicians have procrastinated way too long... the truth is: in order to reverse "climate change" mankind needs to halt all carbon emissions immediately and completely... which, of course, will never happen. This Carbon Tax / Carbon Credit system is also just another Ponzi scheme and is definitely NOT the answer!!!

  • stefan.vanderspuy - 2011-11-10 09:02

    We're buggered. Too many people and jobs are at stake to turn the world around immediately. Despite Fukushima (it survived the worst earthquake ever), the world should have gone nuke around 2000 in a big way. Only France can boast electricity production that is 75% "clean" - nuclear power generated.

      Judith - 2011-11-10 09:27

      Ask the Japanese children exposed to high levels of radiation how they feel about "clean" nuclear energy. Ask the mining communities mining uranium and suffering radiation exposure induced illnesses how they feel. Nuclear if frighteningly destructive and expensive. True renewables are dropping in price by 7% per annum whilst the cost of nuclear escalates. Sustainable energy creates 10 times the jobs that nuclear does

  • ludlowdj - 2011-11-10 09:39

    Yea right pull the other one it has bells on it. FACT climate change is a cycle that has existed since before man and will be a reality long after man ceases to exist as a life form on this planet. The international scientific fraternity is well aware that although humans have speed the cycle up we cannot stop it. This is nothing more than a money making scheme by the 1%er's. The rubbish people buy into never ceases to amaze me.

      Ernst - 2011-11-10 12:08

      You are talking bull. Yes, the climate has changed naturally in the past due to various forces, but humans are now the dominant force. Arguing that climate change has always occured naturally in the past and so man is not to blame is like arguing that man cannot cause fires, because fires were always started naturally before man.

  • Greg - 2011-11-10 09:46

    The biggest lie ever told. Global warming is very real. The lie comes in when they say Humans are the cause. Please show me evidence of this?? Anybody?? you are all simply believing what your politicians tell you without doing your own research. "People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid"

      Ernst - 2011-11-10 12:01

      Please show me evidence that man is NOT responsible.

      Ernst - 2011-11-10 12:09

      Evidence you want? Read the peer-reviewed scientific literature on the issue.

      Douglas - 2011-11-10 19:15

      @Greg, please back up your statements. And state your credentials, if you don't mind. Basically, you say it's all a big lie, and that makes it so?? Strange, 97% of the world's climatologists, after laborious research and testing, have concluded that climate change is real, and that human activity is "very likely" to have accelerated it in a significant way. So then, who to believe?? I think I'll go with the global scientific consensus, if you don't mind.

  • Rudolf - 2011-11-10 09:57

    we survived Y2K , we can survive this too.

      Douglas - 2011-11-10 19:21

      Can we? Tell that to the Pacific island nations who are getting ready to evacuate their islands. Climate change is real, and it's happening right before our eyes. Nature's on the warpath, and we're the proverbial deer in the headlights. Let's do nothing about it, in case it's all some whacky conspiracy.

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