Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

Summary: After a dip in greenhouse gas emissions in 2009 emissions growth has rebounded dramatically to reach record levels in 2010.

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The world wakes up to bad news on climate change this morning with the International Energy Agency reporting CO2 emissions grew to an historic high of 30.6 gigatonnes, a 5% increase over 2008 levels after a dip in 2009. The growth in output is attributed to fast expanding developing economies who have weathered the recession largely unscathed.
This is particularly bad news when you consider the current global policy aspirations for climate change. After disappointment at the Copenhagen talks in 2009 global leaders at the UN led talks in 2010 did at least manage to agree that temperature increases should be limited to no more than 2°C to avoid the worst risks of climate change. Needless to say, negotiators have yet to agree on a global greenhouse gas reductions deal to achieve this but now it seems time is running out fast.

Sir Nichoals Stern author of the most influential econometric study of climate change to date quoted in the Guardian today said:

These figures indicate that emissions are now close to being back on a 'business as usual' path. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's projections, such a path ... would mean around a 50% chance of a rise in global average temperature of more than 4C by 2100. Such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict. That is a risk any sane person would seek to drastically reduce.

There are some tough statistics to swallow in the report including:

  • If the world is to avoid breaching the 2ºC target emissions should not reach 32 gigatonnes before 2020. In other words, we can only afford to grow total global emissions over the next 9 years by the same amount we grew them in just one year between 2009 and 2010. 
  • There is little wiggle room here with 80% of projected emissions from the power sector already locked in from existing capacity or new capacity already under construction. These plants probably don't start to decommission until mid century if allowed to complete their normal life cycle. (click on the illustration below from the International Energy Agency)
  • With much of the spurt in emissions growth coming from the developing world we find plenty of room for economic growth to drive future emissions even harder. On a per capita basis OECD countries emitted an average of 10 tonnes compared with China at 5.8 and India at 1.5. 
  • The nuclear disaster at Fukishima puts paid to new nuclear development anytime soon and likely early decommissioning of existing capacity especially in Europe.

With continued political failure on this issue and inability of the industrial sector to police itself expect a re energising of the civil society/NGO sector. It should also mean a rapid maturation of demand for carbon and energy management software with businesses scrambling to get a grip of this issue if only to head off the effects of more draconian regulation. For hardware manufacturers it means doubling down on use phase data centre, device and PC energy efficiency.

IEA

IEA

Topics: Emerging Tech, Software

James Farrar

About James Farrar

James has more than 15 years of experience working on corporate sustainability issues from both the corporate and NGO campaigning perspective.

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  • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

    Unfortunately, reducing energy usage is one of those things that everybody says we need to do, but nobody wants to take the steps themselves.

    The same person who says 'we should set our air conditioners to a higher temperature to reduce energy use' may not be willing to do that at home themselves. Same with the people who say, 'We need to car pool more, but I can't, because I need to go to the cleaners (or some other minor errand) at lunch'

    I commented at work the other day about the wind farms I flew over in Nebraska and Kansas, and how impressive the deployment of wind power was in some areas of the US. She said , "I wouldn't want them where I have to look at them." She was actually more baffled about how I could have known what states I was flying over than anything related to wind energy.

    CEO's and other corporate decision-makers seem to think along the same lines. Everyone else should do something.

    Sadly, I don't think the motivation will be there until it is too late, and the snowball effect has gained too much momentum. It may have already...
    Hugh Jass
    • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

      @Hugh Jass individual behaviour change at this scale is difficult with out the right level of indivdual incentives and rewards. Industry has to consider this for longer range strategic planning especially for long lifetime assets where the company will be forced to take a view of the future energy and carbon price scenario when calculating future cash flows to make an investment decision today. Policy makers too need to consider a range of concerns in putting together a plan for energy security into the future especially the consideration of a peak oil scenario let alone climate change. Consumers will gradually take their cue but in the first instance there is a lot at stake here for industrial and policy planners.
      jamesfarrar.1@...
      • Yep, nothing wrong with those advocating reductions

        having several homes and flying around the world. We should never expect them to set the example when they can simply demand from others;-)<br><br>"Industry" is clearly to blame, sadly for us "industry" employs people and provides goods and services that underpin our standard of living.<br><br>Magical "renewable" energy alternatives that don't exist, peak oil scenarios that have been talked up since the 70s, CO2 reduction schemes that have been expensive and (as shown above) completely ineffectual. All ignored by the "science is settled" green cult members, living in their multiple houses or funded by the work of others.<br><br>The IEA figures are no surprise (obvious to all but those blinded by faith). Cheap energy supports living standards. Improvements in living standards for the worlds poor requires energy, heaps of it. The best source of energy (cheap, reliable, scalable, etc) at this time is fossil fuel.<br><br>Believers demand sacrifices, as long as it doesn't involve them, whilst the worlds poor celebrate their continued quality of life improvements. Many of us recognise their gains, understand the science and accept the economic reality and are happy for them (and grateful for our own privileged position).
        Richard Flude
  • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

    But wait, all the experts said if gas hit $4.00/Gallon, this would stop ... people would walk, bike, ride mass transit ?

    They could not predict their way out of a wet paper sack.

    The only thing global warming has done is create a rush for a PRODUCT that will be the MAGIC PILL and waste billions in tax dollars.

    FOLLOW THE MONEY.
    BrentRBrian
    • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

      @BrentRBrian you're right demand has been pretty elastic. Most people are going to pay what ever it takes because mobility or lack thereof really isn't optional.

      I agree -- follow the money and I think you'll find as energy prices climb upwards businesses and consumers will be looking carefully at energy efficiency for cost savings.
      jamesfarrar.1@...
      • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

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    • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

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  • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

    Are we still going on about Global Warming... oh; I mean climate change... while I am against throwing the baby out with the bathwater by ignoring alternative energy sources, which we obviously need for reasons other than AGW, this is just getting tired. It has been 'fun' watching all the good science contrary to AGW alarmist propaganda get totally ignored, but I guess I am not surprised... there is money to be made.
    rikasa
  • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

    What the article means is its a bad year for GW because C02 emissions have gone up and no measurable change will occur, so the GW wolf criers will look bad again. Instead of trying geologists for failing to predict earthquakes (as they are in Italy), we should be trying climate "scientists" for bad climate models that leftist politicians use to ruin economies.
    txscott
    • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

      @rshol unfortunately the system doesn't work like that. Climate change will build slowly and maybe impossible to reverse once they become patently obvious. What is measurable is CO2 concentration in the atmosphere -- its rising fast. Climate science is uncertain. What risks do we want to take with our gandchildren's future.?
      jamesfarrar.1@...
      • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

        @jamesfarrar.1@... <br>So your model is 'when we don't know for sure, apply countermeasures for an unproven theory just in case'... which could work out potentially worse for the whole world's grandchildren to come. There are plenty of climate-related problems for which we have proven beyond doubt the causes for and have applied countermeasures accordingly and that is wonderful... just that AGW aint one of them.
        rikasa
      • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

        @rikasa can't see how diversifying energy supply and improving efficiency could even 'potentially work out worse'
        jamesfarrar.1@...
      • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

        @rikasa and rshol - Look at it this way. If we're wrong and nothing happens, economies will recover, energy will be independent, the middle east will quiet, growth will continue, and cancer + mercury poisoning rates will diminish.

        If you're wrong, humanity will not survive.

        I'll take my chances with the former tyvm.
        hoaxoner
      • Forget tomorrow, AGW phobia is killing children today

        Restrictions on financing fossil energy expansion in Africa and high food prices as stables are redirected into tax support "green" fuel alternatives is killing thousands of children every year.

        As for how it can work out worst, you must recognise the opportunity cost of all that money. The sums, therefore the costs, are huge.
        Richard Flude
      • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

        @Richard Flude <br>I assume you are referring to e85 ethanol in the midwest. With that in mind, you are correct. The ethanol projects are a disaster and have done nothing but harm to everyone. However, there are plants that do produce enough sugar to be a solution to biofuels. <br> <br><a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080730155344.htm" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080730155344.htm</a><br><br>I hope you are not referring to liquid natural gas, which is the same exact thing as coal and poisons the water at a higher rate than coal does. <br><br>I sure hope that is all you referring to. I hope so.

        Restricting fossil fuel expansion in Africa???!!! So much for the lessons from Shell in Nigeria. I urge you to do some research before you spout idiotic ideology. Plus, this seems to be working better than fossil fuel expansion in Africa... http://eandco.net/
        hoaxoner
      • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

        @jamesfarrar.1@... <br>Regarding 'working out for the worse' does not refer to efficient energy diversification, but rather the implications of getting there in particular for developing nations.
        rikasa
      • hoaxoner, yet another that has never been

        I'd encourage you to go to Africa before publishing links to ineffective NGO projects (or at least install them at home first). Africa is a continent crushed by the best wishes and devastating outcomes of these projects. And yes I have been (N, E & S).

        Fossil fuel energy I was referring to was local generation, not mines for export. Generation that will enhance the lives of their citizens by providing them with cheap reliable energy for their homes and to develop industries.

        This is now very difficult in Africa thanks to the UN and World Bank negativity to such projects scaring away investors (ironic given their CO2 footprints).

        The truth is green projects are killing people today. Without proposing an alternative (not technologies yet to be invented) you shoulder some of the responsibilities.
        Richard Flude
      • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

        @Richard Flude <br>Wow. Just wow. From all accounts of people that I know that are doing real humanitarian work in Africa, one dear friend of mine runs OperationOF, there are a number of reasons for economic disparity in Africa. First of all, the lack of capital in order to fund a central grid. Additionally, those grids that are set up are being vandalized and their capacity stolen typically by their own governments. <br><br>While I tend to agree that NGOs do have some efficiency issues, they are better than many alternatives. <br><br>Finally, energy expansion can happen in such a way that is clean and affordable. <br><a href="http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=178317" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=178317" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=178317</a></a><br><br>You are trying to garner an emotional response by bringing up child death in Africa based on energy disparity. Other industries have done way worse things on the continent than advocating clean energy growth, diamonds for example. So please, spare me from the coal would help the children rhetoric when the rhetoric should be that energy equality. We all should be using clean energy at this point.

        Additionally, eandco is growing rapidly, ineffectiveness is a temporary situation.
        hoaxoner
      • RE: Bleak Outlook for Climate Change with Record CO2 output in 2010

        @rikasa

        Leaving aside the environment question for a while and focuing on the economic risks - so your position is sticking to the current energy model dependent on imported fossil fuels is less risky than trying to shift and diversity the energy base over time. Any shift in diversifiation is too risky? What about risks of sticking to the current model? Doesn't make any sense.
        jamesfarrar.1@...
    • GW was created to legalize the pyramid scheme called Carbon Credits

      @rshol Global Warming was a term created to introduce unfounded fear and legalize the scam called Carbon Credits.

      Check who owns the top companies that "trade" carbon credits around the world. Then go out and check how many new "green" technology has being created using carbon credits. Would you be surprised to find out that the number is ZERO/ NADA / NOTHING?

      In fact, carbon credit is the top reason pollution has gone up. Because some countries were duped into giving "credit" for carbon credits, it meant that for every CC purchased, the company could increase emission beyond the legal levels without any consequences.
      wackoae