Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Six Months after Paris Accord, We’re Losing the Climate-Change Battle - MIT Technology Review

A new report from the International Energy Agency includes projections for reductions in energy use and carbon dioxide emissions that could be wildly optimistic.

IEA head Fatih Birol is “hopeful, but not fully confident.” (Credit: Image courtesy of the International Energy Agency; photograph by Ed Jones | Getty) Click to Enlarge.
Since the signing of the Paris climate accord in December, have we made any progress in cutting global emissions?

Let’s start with the good news.  Emissions in China, the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide, dropped by around 3 percent in 2015, according to preliminary government statistics, thanks largely to an economic slowdown and a dramatic decrease in the burning of coal.  U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption (which account for more than 90 percent of total emissions) also fell by nearly 3 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  And worldwide, carbon dioxide emissions in 2015 fell by 0.6 percent, according to a study in Nature Climate Change—the first time emissions have shrunk in a period of economic growth, rather than contraction.

And now, the bad news:  we still have a long way to go to avoid catastrophic global warming.

Emissions of greenhouse gases have slowed, for now, but the outlook for limiting climate change remains hazy.

A report released Wednesday by the International Energy Agency that focuses on urban energy consumption contains some encouraging projections, but a closer look at them reveals that they are wildly optimistic.

The IEA predicts total worldwide energy demand will increase between now and 2050, but with strong government action, that increase can be limited enough to slow global warming to 2 °C or less.  Cities account for about two-thirds of global energy demand and 70 percent of total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, so limiting energy use and emissions from metropolitan areas will be critical to achieving the goals of the Paris agreement.  Limiting urban energy use to an increase of 20 percent (compared to a 70 percent increase that would happen if current trends continue) would be a huge factor in staying below the 2 °C threshold, the report finds.  And total worldwide carbon dioxide emissions could be halved by 2050 compared to 2013 levels—nearly three-quarters of that from urban sources.

Read more at Six Months after Paris Accord, We’re Losing the Climate-Change Battle

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