IEA warns we may be at the tipping point for limiting global warming

The International Energy Agency warned Thursday that the world is hurtling toward irreversible climate change in its annual World Energy Outlook.  They stated that we will lose the chance to limit warming if we don’t take bold action in the next five years, spelling out the consequences if those steps aren’t taken and what needs to be done to cap global temperature increases at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. That’s the threshold beyond which some scientists have said catastrophic changes could be triggered.

At the moment, the world is going in the wrong direction in terms of climate change.  Governments around the world have put increasing energy efficiency at the top of their to-do lists, but efficiency has worsened for two years in a row now in spite of the fact that the world has the technology to tackle the problem — just not the political will.

Rather than providing incentives to reduce consumptions, incentives to consume more have risen: The report said subsidies for fossil fuels have risen past $400 billion.  Only when “dirty” fuels become more expensive, will governments follow through on their commitments to increase energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency is generally considered the easiest way to reduce consumption since it has a price-incentive built in. It has become even more important since Japan’s nuclear accident sparked a rethinking of the use of atomic technology previously seen as key to cutting emissions.  In Texas, which is still in the grip of a record setting drought, efficiency may be the difference between rolling blackouts and keeping the lights and air conditioners on next summer.