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Climate Change Irreversible by 2017, Warns IEA

Climate Change Irreversible by 2017, Warns IEA

“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

In Chicken Little’s case, the sky turned out to be an acorn whacking the chick on his head. In Planet Earth’s case, the spaceship we are riding really is in danger, and a new report warns that the window of opportunity for shifting directions is about to slam shut.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have not read World Energy Outlook 2011. At 660 pages and €120 for the PDF version, it requires more time and money resources than I can give it. So I have to rely on the press release and summary from its publisher, the International Energy Agency (IEA), and on other news reports.

IEA, an intergovernmental agency, is not the darling of the environmental movement. They have been accused of underplaying the potential of renewable energies, soft pedaling issues like peak oil, being overly optimistic about fossil fuels and playing politics with our energy future.

So when they say it will be too late if we do not take action by 2017, pundits take notice. After that date, IEA says keeping a safe lid on climate change will no longer be possible. Their press release quotes the agency’s Chief Economist:

“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. The WEO presents a 450 Scenario, which traces an energy path consistent with meeting the globally agreed goal of limiting the temperature rise to 2°C. 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. 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: 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.

A carbon dioxide level of 450 parts per million is considerably higher than 350.org’s target. The latter points out that climatologists warned of human and natural disasters if the CO2 level remained above 350 parts per million. A sampling of headlines confirms their worries:

As a species, we humans are behaving like a reverse Chicken Little. Some very informed scientists have been telling us for a long time we had better pay attention to what we are doing to the environment. Two kinds of critics have shouted them down. The first kind thinks they have a lot to lose because they make a lot of money destroying the planet. The Koch brothers are a good example. The second kind treats climate change as a religion, and they are not among the faithful. GOP presidential candidates are among them.

The time for public disinterest, corporate food dragging and political timidity is long past. We have a planet to save.

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Photo from Partha Sarathi Sahana via Flickr Creative Commons

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158 comments

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6:02PM PDT on Apr 24, 2013

Thank you for this important post!

1:00PM PST on Dec 16, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

10:29AM PST on Jan 11, 2012

I don't really mind so much for the human race....but the hundreds of thousands of other species just don't DESERVE this! And it's our fault!

8:09AM PST on Jan 11, 2012

It's actually shameful than depressing. It's difficult to convince the people in power but we can do our bit. Let us sign more petitions, let us get more reward points and use it to reduce carbon foot print and plant more trees. Let us reduce our daily burden on the environment by judiciously using our resources. In democratic countries, it's the people who can make the difference and overpower the government. Let us do as much as possible.

5:24AM PST on Jan 11, 2012

Both natural variation (Milankovich cycles and solar radiance cycles) and human activity (mostly greenhouse gas emissions [80% fossil fuel burn, 20% agriculture], some dirt reducing light reflected rather than absorbed) contribute to global warming. If we fail to both mitigate by finding a way to bribe the too big to fail fossil fuel firms to invest in sustainable energy INSTEAD of fossil fuel AND adapt by extracting fresh water from sea water for both domestic use and irrigation and by making our infrastructure more rugged to stand up to extreme weather, we will starve to death.

1:13AM PST on Jan 11, 2012

It was interesting news a couple of months back when the hand picked scientist the infamous Koch brother industrialists hired to debunk global warming released his report CONFIRMING global warming.

12:58AM PST on Jan 11, 2012

The imbeciles who claim (human caused) climate change is a myth won't be convinced until it is too late and even then, most are so deeply deluded and trenched in denial and superstition that they'll blame it on gay marraige or something else equally stupid. Reason and Repugs do not go together. I sure hope they get raptured this year. (sic)

12:25AM PST on Nov 19, 2011

so sadly..... noted. That picture of the dog is very depressing .......

11:30AM PST on Nov 15, 2011

stop the pollution

10:19AM PST on Nov 15, 2011

Global Warming was not the best wording for what the Global Problem is > global pollution to a point of no return that results in loss of habitat for animals, humans too, loss of biodiversity, loss of clean air, loss of farmable land, and in some cases colder not warmer temperatures, all the while ocean temperatures rises and at some point it is predicted that the Japanese current will stop and thats the end folks... so maybe you are not experiencing warm temperatures, you experience cold, but the Global Temp. has risen over the past few years and our oceans are warmer. That is man made pollution and the guarantee is that in a few hundred years man will not be living on the earth. Our water is polluted and our farm lands are filled with chemicals and GMO plants, soil that once was alive is now dead. We don't have a lot of time or a lot of hope. Every plastic bag that ends up in the water came from a plastic plant that also polluted water. Every time you flush a toilet you pollute water. Its pretty much a hopeless cause.

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