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News : Innovation Last Updated: Jun 11, 2013 - 7:34 AM


World not on track to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius
By Finfacts Team
Jun 11, 2013 - 6:28 AM

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Warning that the world is not on track to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius, the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Monday urged governments to swiftly enact four energy policies that would keep climate goals alive without harming economic growth.

The IEA is the energy watchdog for 28 industrialised countries, including Ireland.

“Climate change has quite frankly slipped to the back burner of policy priorities. But the problem is not going away – quite the opposite,” Maria van der Hoeven, IEA executive director, said in London at the launch of a World Energy Outlook Special Report, 'Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map,' [pdf] which highlights the need for intensive action before 2020.

The new IEA report presents the results of a 4-for-2 °C Scenario, in which four energy policies are selected that can deliver significant emissions reductions by 2020, and rely only on existing technologies, which already been adopted successfully in several countries.

“We identify a set of proven measures that could stop the growth in global energy-related emissions by the end of this decade at no net economic cost,” said IEA chief economist Fatih Birol, the report’s lead author. “Rapid and widespread adoption could act as a bridge to further action, buying precious time while international climate negotiations continue.”

In the 4-for-2°C Scenario, global energy-related greenhouse-gas emissions are 8% (3.1 Gt CO2‑equivalent) lower in 2020 than the level otherwise expected.

  • Targeted energy efficiency measures in buildings, industry and transport account for nearly half the emissions reduction in 2020, with the additional investment required being more than offset by reduced spending on fuel bills.

  • Limiting the construction and use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants delivers more than 20% of the emissions reduction and helps curb local air pollution. The share of power generation from renewables increases (from around 20% today to 27% in 2020), as does that from natural gas.

  • Actions to halve expected methane (a potent greenhouse gas) releases into the atmosphere from the upstream oil and gas industry in 2020 provide 18% of the savings.

  • Implementing a partial phase-out of fossil fuel consumption subsidies accounts for 12% of the reduction in emissions and supports efficiency efforts.

Also on Monday, The New York Times reported that the rise in the surface temperature of earth has been markedly slower over the last 15 years than in the 20 years before that. And that lull in warming has occurred even as greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere at a record pace.

Justin Gillis says it turns out we had an earlier plateau in global warming, from roughly the 1950s to the 1970s, and scientists do not fully understand that one either. A lot of evidence suggests that sunlight-blocking pollution from dirty factories may have played a role, as did natural variability in ocean circulation. The pollution was ultimately reduced by stronger clean-air laws in the West.

"Today, factory pollution from China and other developing countries could be playing a similar role in blocking some sunlight."

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