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Published on November 11th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


International Energy Agency: 5 Years to Change or Be Changed

November 11th, 2011 by  


US fossil fuel use 2010

U.S. fossil fuel use rose in 2010. This is the U.S. energy split in 2010.

Climate scientists have warned us (for decades). Some politicians have warned us. Military reports have warned us. And citizens of the world have certainly warned now. Now, the International Energy Agency (IEA) is warning us: if we don’t make a massive switch to clean energy in the next few years (5 years according to the IEA), climate change is going to wreck us.

Now, an important thing to remember is that avoiding the catastrophes of climate change is not like meeting a legislative or business deadline. It’s not like stopping the car before driving into the wall. It’s more like this: we’ve driven the car into the biggest hurricane the world has ever seen, and now we need to get out of it, rather than keeping driving towards the center of destruction. Climate-related disasters are already costing us billions upon billions of dollars. but, back to the IEA….

“[R]ising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change” if current trends continue, the IEA concluded in its annual World Energy Outlook report.

“The door to 2.0 C is closing.” OK, there is a sort of wall climate scientists have come up with to help humanity get to work planning and averting serious disaster. That wall is 2.0 C degrees of warming. We’re at 1.0 C degrees of warming now, compared to the last century, because of rising CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.

The IEA finds that without tremendous change, we will hit 2.0 C in 2017.

“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 bad news: if we take into account current government commitments to change energy policy in order to avoid climate change, a 3.5 C increase in the global average temperatures in the next 25 years. That is, basically, equal to massive catastrophes around the world, natural disasters and basic life service collapses like humans have never seen. And that means that not only do countries who have committed to strong climate action need to realize their goals, but many more countries (ahem, the U.S.) need to get on board or increase their commitments.

And, if we just carried on with “business as usual,” the projection is actually 6 C degrees of warming. To put it bluntly, good luck to your children surviving that! As the AFP summarizes: “Scientists who have modelled the impacts on biodiversity, agriculture and human settlement say a 6 C world would be close to unlivable due to violent extremes of drought, flooding, heatwaves and storms.”

The 2011 World Energy Outlook “shows that the world is heading for a fossil-fuel lock-in. This is another urgent call to move to a low-carbon economy,”  Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s climate commissioner, notes. “One wonders how many more worrying figures the world needs.”

This is why I’m in the job I’m in today. While it’s clearly a global problem and others need to do their part, the important thing for us is that we do our part (individually and nationally).

Image Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 
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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the CEO of Important Media. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA] — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in this company and feels like it is a good cleantech company to invest in. But he offers no investment advice and does not recommend investing in Tesla or any other company.

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