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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Three new international reports, but same story

Last week, I wrote about a PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis that found that the world is on pace to blow through its carbon emissions budget in two decades.  Three other new reports tell the same depressing story.

Actual global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached a new record of 34.5 billion tonnes in 2012. 
Yet, the report also finds: 
the increase in global CO2 emissions in that year slowed down to 1.1%...which was less than half the average annual increase of 2.9% over the last decade. This development signals a shift towards less fossil-fuel-intensive activities, more use of renewable energy and increased energy saving. 
So in 2012, the runaway emissions train may not have accelerated quite as fast as in previous years. Does that really signal anything? After all, emissions are still growing.

While trying to be hopeful about the reported decrease in emissions growth, The Guardian’s Duncan Clark points out that there are real questions about the accuracy, comprehensiveness and reliability of the data. Plus, one year does not a trend make.  And remember, too, that ours is an inequitable world of considerable energy poverty. As I mentioned here, globally over 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity and 2.6 billion people are without clean cooking facilities. Reducing that energy poverty will require immense amounts of new energy to be generated.

Two other reports are without such glimmers of hope.

The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2013 finds that we are on pace to almost double the internationally-accepted target of limiting the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which would avoid some of the worst impacts of climate disruption: 
In our central scenario, taking into account the impact of measures already announced by governments to improve energy efficiency, support renewables, reduce fossil-fuel subsidies and, in some cases, to put a price on carbon, energy-related CO2 emissions still rise by 20% to 2035. This leaves the world on a trajectory consistent with a long-term average temperature increase of 3.6 °C, far above the internationally agreed 2 °C target. 
And the difficulty, cost, and risks of insufficient action are all growing. The United Nations Environment Programme released its Emissions Gap Report 2013 that finds:
as emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise rather than decline, it becomes less and less likely that emissions will be low enough by 2020 to be on a least-cost pathway towards meeting the 2° C target. As a result, after 2020, the world will have to rely on more difficult, costlier and riskier means of meeting the target– the further from the least-cost level in 2020, the higher these costs and the greater the risks will be. 
 It’s hard to be hopeful about the world we’re leaving to our children.


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