Ocean Mist

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19 Jun 2013

More energy, more emissions

Posted by Michael Keating

Two recent statements from the International Energy Agency (IEA) do not bode well for the critical energy and sustainability file.

The IEA’s World Energy Outlook Special Report, Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map warns that greenhouse gas emissions are still too high. “The world is not on track to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius,” stated the Paris-based source of expertise on global energy.

The IEA estimates there was a 1.4 per cent increase in global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2012, reaching a record high of 31.6 billion tonnes.

In May, CO2 levels in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in several hundred thousand years.

According to the IEA, “The weight of scientific analysis tells us that our climate is already changing and that we should expect extreme weather events (such as storms, floods and heat waves) to become more frequent and intense, as well as increasing global temperatures and rising sea levels. Policies that have been implemented, or are now being pursued, suggest that the long-term average temperature increase is more likely to be between 3.6°C and 5.3°C.”

IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven lamented that “Climate change has quite frankly slipped to the back burner of policy priorities. But the problem is not going away – quite the opposite.”

She said the energy-climate report maps out four energy policies that can deliver significant emissions reductions by 2020, using existing technologies that have already been adopted successfully in several countries:

  • Greater energy efficiency measures in buildings, industry and transport.
  • Limiting the construction and use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants.
  • Halving expected methane (a potent greenhouse gas) releases into the atmosphere from oil and gas industries.
  • Reducing fossil fuel consumption subsidies.

In another report, http://iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2013/may/name,38080,en.html, the IEA said a surge in North American oil production is helping to increase the world supply of fossil fuels. This is the result of new technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing, which provide access to large amounts of oil and gas that were previously trapped in rock formations.

In the past, there have been predictions that the world would run short of fuel, but the limit to production may not be one of supply, but of pollution. How much climate change is the world willing to endure?

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