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A sober note from the IEA

By Steven Mufson

The International Energy Agency sounded a sober note today, politely warning that even if the Copenhagen summit reaches an agreement along the most ambitious terms being discussed, it won't be enough.

The IEA report is also a reminder of just how enormous the energy industry is. The Energy Department secretary, Steven Chu, is going to announce a $350 million fund to invest in technology. But it's a drop in the bucket in the energy world, less than what's spent on research and development by any one of a number of major oil companies.

Even the $100 billion to $200 billion in investment in clean energy being debated by negotiators seems modest compared to the size of the task.

IEA today said that "to support a global transition to more efficient, low-carbon energy systems, the IEA estimates that $10.5 trillion (with $8.3 trillion in end-use) are needed by 2030. With such effort, global CO2 emissions would decline after 2020, and be lower than today's level by 2030."

That's what the IEA says is needed to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide at 450 parts per million, the level many policymakers say is needed to limit climate change to 2 degrees.Leading climatologists, however, say 350 ppm is what's needed.

IEA executive director Nobuo Tanaka says in the agency's release that "the results in the 2020-2030 decade will be crucial, as this is when most new technologies need to be deployed. The wave of investments that will come with the economic recovery must be climate friendly. A strong signal is needed now. Every year of delay adds USD 500 billion to the energy sector cost of reaching 450 ppm."

Here's how the IEA is figuring it:

"With energy accounting for 84 percent of global CO2 emissions, the IEA has analysed what needs to be done to limit the long-term concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 equivalent, in line with a 2°C increase in global temperature. On current trends, unless new measures are taken, global energy-related CO2 emissions will reach 40 Gigatonnes (Gt) by 2030 (29 Gt in 2007) and continue rising thereafter, whereas climate stabilisation requires emissions to peak around 2020 and then decline."

"The 450 Policy scenario of our flagship publication World Energy Outlook 2009 is the right path to green growth but it is a radical departure from current trends," Mr. Tanaka stressed. "For instance, the world would need to retire a significant portion of today's coal-fired electricity plants before the end of their lifetime - by 2030, early closures around the world would amount to the equivalent of today's total coal-based power generation in Japan, EU and the US. Around 60 percent of global electricity production in 2030 would need to come from a mix of renewables (37 percent), nuclear (18 percent) and plants fitted with carbon capture and storage (5 percent). Another illustration is the dramatic shift needed in car sales, with hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles representing 60 percent of sales in 2030, from around 1 percent today."


Steven Mufson

 |  December 14, 2009; 8:12 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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The only thing more expensive than fixing global warming, is not fixing it.

Posted by: raschumacher | December 14, 2009 6:40 PM
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Ah, yes, the ancient cabal of rich evil scientists, fattening themselves at the public trough with Yet Another hoax. First it was the Copernican hoax, then the Newtonian hoax, then the statistical mechanics hoax, then the evolution hoax, then the electromagnetism hoax, then the relativity hoax, then the quantum mechanics hoax, then the Big Bang hoax, then the plate tectonics hoax, then the dinosaur extinction hoax, and now the global warming hoax. Lousy scientists. Let's burn down the universities so that they can never do this again!

Posted by: raschumacher | December 14, 2009 6:38 PM
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The IEA (International Energy Agency) recently had several whistleblowers declare, "Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure". In other words the IEA, like the IMF, is just a branch of US policy-making.

"The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation's latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies."

(for full article, )

Assuming the world's running out of oil, and several other important resources, then the climate and carbon issue are temporary anyway. Complete and utter collapse of the world's energy supplies will save the world's climate while we make an unexpected exit from civilisation. Easy peasy!

Posted by: icurhuman2 | December 14, 2009 11:38 AM
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"What is the IEA and why should I believe anything it says?"

The IEA is a propaganda group for big energy companies and exporter states. They paint a rosy picture on emissions data and fuel supplies to keep consumer nations like the USA happy. If they say peak oil will occur in 2020, that means peak oil will occur in 2010. If they say we need to limit emissions to 450ppm, we need to limit emissions to 300ppm. The long and short of it is that you should not believe anything they say.

Posted by: squier13 | December 14, 2009 11:02 AM
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As usual, the primary goal is MONEY - yours and mine. The recently-disclosed emails show wide disagreement among the 'experts' who are calling the shots. Their findings are based on highly speculative computer models. Too much uncertainty for us to borrow trillions of dollars to deal with it. Change occurs slowly. Wait and learn more before doing anything.

Posted by: OldNavyMan | December 14, 2009 10:17 AM
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What is the IEA and why should I believe anything it says? I suspect it just another one of those corrupt UN agencies.

Posted by: jdonner2 | December 14, 2009 8:50 AM
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