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  • Warnings show time is running out for tackling climate change

    Extreme warnings about the consequences of delaying action to tackle climate change have come from two sources in the last month. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says a global climate deal must be agreed by 2017 if global temperatures are to be kept under control, and an American institute says global warming is happening faster than the most pessimistic scenarios have predicted.

    The IEA report ‘World Energy Outlook’ presented earlier this month warns the world that continuing to develop carbon-intensive infrastructure like industrial plants and transport systems will ‘lock in’ emissions. It says the developed nations should not be made to carry the main burden, as by 2035 90% of growth in demand for energy will be from countries outside the OECD, and China will have emitted more than Europe.

    The IEA has calculated the costs of delaying action to reduce warming. It says the cost of investment in clean infrastructure after 2020 could be 4.3 times the cost of the same investment now. And it says failure to act by 2017 means keeping global temperatures within two degrees Celsius, a globally agreed target, will be ‘probably not practicable politically’.

    The report says that by 2015 the EU will overtake the US as the world’s biggest oil importer, and that oil price is likely to hit $150 per barrel in the near future.

    The IEA’s estimates could be already too cautious, as figures for 2010 from the US Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center suggest levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts four years ago. The 2010 figure was 6% up on 2009, prompting one professor to describe it as ‘a monster increase’, and the centre’s director to say ‘From an emissions standpoint, the global financial crisis is over.’

    Extra emissions from two countries, China and the USA, account for more than half the 6% increase (or 564 million more tonnes) in 2010. India was the next biggest contributor.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted in 2007 that temperatures this century would rise by between 2.4 and 6.4 Celsius. The 6.4 mark is about midway in the range offered by the CDIAC based on 2010 emissions.

    More information at