IEA: “The Next 10 Years are Critical”

Looks like Gore and Hansen and Climate Progress were right, all along. We must reverse our energy path in the next decade or suffer the consequences, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. Indeed, the headline comes from their dire press release.

The New York Times reports the story this way:

China’s and India’s surging fuel consumption poses a growing challenge to the world’s energy systems and, unless curbed, will strain global oil trade, push up prices and lead to substantially higher carbon dioxide emissions in coming decades, according to a report by an influential energy organization scheduled for release today.

In unusually urgent tones, the International Energy Agency, which provides policy advice to industrial nations, urged advanced economies to work with China and India to cut overall growth in energy consumption.”

[Note to IEA and world: Duh!]

There is a need for an electroshock,” said Fatih Birol, the agency’s chief economist and the lead author of its flagship publication, The World Energy Outlook [WEO]. “We have to act immediately and boldly.”

Birol told the Financial Times: “We want more action, instead of more targets and more meetings and more talks.”

Finally, someone talking sense! Back to the New York Times:

“This is a very worrying message,” Mr. Birol said. “China and India are transforming our energy markets. We have a window of opportunity of 5 to 10 years before it becomes unsustainable and irreversible.”

The IEA does acknowledge the benefits of China’s and India’s growth:

“Rapid economic development will undoubtedly continue to drive up energy demand in China and India, and will contribute to a real improvement in the quality of life for more than two billion people. This is a legitimate aspiration that needs to be accommodated and supported by the rest of the world”, said Mr. Tanaka [IEA’s Exec. Dir.]. “Indeed, most countries stand to benefit economically from China’s and India’s economic development through international trade.”

The costs, however, are equally high:

But the consequences of unfettered growth in global energy demand are alarming for all countries. If governments around the world stick with existing policies — the underlying premise of the WEO Reference Scenario — the world’s energy needs would be well over 50% higher in 2030 than today. China and India together account for 45% of the increase in global primary energy demand in this scenario. Both countries’ energy use is set to more than double between 2005 and 2030. Worldwide, fossil fuels — oil, gas and coal — continue to dominate the fuel mix. Among them, coal is set to grow most rapidly, driven largely by power-sector demand in China and India. These trends lead to continued growth in global energy-related emissions of carbon-dioxide (CO2), from 27 Gt in 2005 to 42 Gt in 2030 — a rise of 57%. China is expected to overtake the United States to become the world’s biggest emitter in 2007, while India becomes the third-biggest emitter by around 2015. China’s per-capita emissions almost reach those of OECD Europe by 2030.

This is incompatible with stabilization of carbon at safe levels. The IEA notes:

In a “450 Stabilisation Case”, which describes a notional pathway to long-term stabilisation of the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at around 450 parts per million, global emissions peak in 2012 and then fall sharply below 2005 levels by 2030.

I can’t conclude this better than just repeating the word’s of IEA’s chief economist:

We want more action, instead of more targets and more meetings and more talks.

3 Responses to IEA: “The Next 10 Years are Critical”

  1. David says:

    Forget that. If China and India want to use more coal, more power to them. It’s opening up great opportunities for the U.S. economy.

    “More than 1,000 coal-fed power plants will be built in the next five years, mostly in China and India, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. China, the world’s biggest coal producer, became a net importer for the first time this year, taking supplies from Indonesia, Australia and South Africa and reducing the amount available for Europe.”

    And what are the results of this?

    “U.S. coal exports to Europe for the first nine months of this year were 11.4 million tons, up 15 percent from the same period in 2006, according to the U.S. Energy Department.”

    ” U.S. coal exports have increased 37 percent this year and will continue to climb because of record global demand and a weaker dollar, analysts and executives say.

    Port operator Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, a U.S. pipeline operator, plans to expand its capacity to handle more coal as China, the world’s largest producer, becomes a net importer and Australian exports are delayed.”

    A new market for American coal. More jobs for Americans. I’m not seeing the downside here.

  2. Albert says:

    The next president should paraphrase Kennedy’s May 25, 1961 speech before congress:

    “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of transitioning from a carbon economy and returning safety to the earth. No single project in this period will be more impressive to humanity, or more important for the long-term security of our country and our planet; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish, but the cost of inaction would be chaos`. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate alternative energies. We propose to develop market incentives, much stronger than any now being considered, promoting a strong mix of technologies. We propose additional funds for other technology development and for expanded implementation–implementation which is particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the the planet and the strengthening of the country that first makes this daring change. But in a very real sense, it will not be one country changing its economy–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be the entire world. For all of us must work to make this real.”

    Not only will this help prevent the worst effects of global warming, return our country to a state of technological dominance, create jobs, clean our air, prevent the destruction and polution caused by oil and coal mining and transport, it will empty the coffers of those the conservatives are so worried about — in Venezuela, the Middle East, and Russia.

  3. Lou Grinzo says:

    David: Please tell us that your comment is incredibly subtle snark and not a true reflection of your views. If you can prove that there’s no downside whatsoever to all that additional burning of coal in those new plants, then I think the Nobel Prize committee will be giving you an award in the not-too-distant future.