Saturday, November 26, 2011

Two Degrees of Disaster: The world inches dangerously close to a catastrophic 2C change in temperature

Two years ago, at a meeting in Copenhagen, world leaders agreed on the goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius, or roughly three and a half degrees Fahrenheit. The so-called Copenhagen Accord, which Barack Obama personally helped negotiate, contained no mechanism for meeting this goal, so even though the President called it a “meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough,” many others questioned whether it was worth the proverbial paper it was printed on. Unfortunately, it now seems, the many others had a point.

On Wednesday, the Paris-based International Energy Agency released its annual “World Energy Outlook.” Among the report’s key findings is that, in spite of a shaky economy, global carbon-dioxide emissions rose by five per cent last year, to more than thirty billion metric tons. Meanwhile, energy efficiency—defined as the amount of energy used per unit of economic output—declined for the second year in a row. According to the I.E.A., “The door to 2°C is closing.” The group warned that unless dramatic action is taken by 2017, so many additional billions of tons of emissions will effectively be “locked in” that a temperature increase exceeding two degrees will become inevitable.

“If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re heading,” the report said. more