Thursday, November 10, 2011

Climate change: Running out of time

How much time do we have to prevent dangerous levels of climate change? Less than five years, according to the International Energy Agency:

The world is likely to build so many fossil-fuelled power stations, energy-guzzling factories and inefficient buildings in the next five years that it will become impossible to hold global warming to safe levels, and the last chance of combating dangerous climate change will be "lost for ever", according to the most thorough analysis yet of world energy infrastructure.

Anything built from now on that produces carbon will do so for decades, and this "lock-in" effect will be the single factor most likely to produce irreversible climate change, the world's foremost authority on energy economics has found. If this is not rapidly changed within the next five years, the results are likely to be disastrous.

"The door is closing," Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said. "I am very worried – if we don't change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever."

The danger threshold is set at 450 parts per million of CO2, the level which gives us just a fifty-fifty chance of avoiding more than two degrees of warming. Above that level, we're looking at droughts, water shortages, the spread of tropical diseases, famine, and war. And we're now in real danger of being locked in to that future.

Meanwhile, rich governments seem in no hurry to do anything. Our own government doesn't give a damn about the most important issue facing the global environment. They are fiddling while the planet burns. If we want to stop them from burning our future, then we need to vote them out and replace them with people who will act.