CO2 hits high
It dominates debate in parliaments, around dinner tables, in offices, and possibly even playgrounds: climate change is the hot-button issue occupying human minds as we face the 21st century. Yet as we debate taxes and trading a new report has confirmed that in 2010 energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were at all-time highs.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is an intergovernmental body that was set up in 1973 following an oil supply crisis. In a new report the IEA has said that although emissions dipped in 2009 due to the global financial crisis, in 2010 a record 30.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted worldwide from energy production. That figure was five per cent higher than the previous record set in 2008.
Of the 2010 emissions 44 per cent came from coal, 36 per cent from oil, and 20 per cent from natural gas.
There are also no real signs that things will get better any time soon. A massive 80 per cent of the predicted emissions from the power sector are already locked in as they will come from plants either already in use or already under construction.
In December 2010 at a United Nations climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico world leaders agreed to a target limit of a two degrees Celsius increase in global temperature. To achieve this the long term concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere must not exceed 450 parts per million. According to the energy output pathway set out by the IEA in order for this to happen global energy related emissions must not exceed 32 gigatonnes annually by the year 2020.
For this goal to be achieved, the total rise in emissions over the next ten years must be smaller than it was for 2009 to 2010. As the IEA have observed, the chances of this happening are â€œbleakâ€.
Undoubtedly it is a difficult challenge to maintain quality of life at the same time as limiting carbon dioxide emissions and thereby hoping to assure long-term health of the planet and its inhabitants. It is difficult though, not to be dismayed at the political game playing and shallow level that the debate on the topic can sometimes drift to.
For some reason the image of the narcissist Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome burned keeps asserting itself. In two thousand years not much has changed except that Nero has been replaced by a self-seducing society and it is the planet that is aflame.