New IEA Projections of CO2 Emissions

In a statement release yesterday, the International Energy Agency concluded that global carbon dioxide emissions climbed to a record 30.6 gigatons by the end of 2010, a 5% increase over 2008 levels; this follows a slight downtick in 2009, probably entirely attributable to the global financial crisis. Even more disconcerting that this was the IEA’s overall assessment of the prospects of avoiding the 2C above pre-industrial temperature levels “guardrail.” The Agency concluded that 80% of power plant emissions through 2020 are now “locked in” due to plants currently currently in operation or under construction. Moreover, to avoid exceeding the 450ppm concentration threshold to limit temperature increases to 2C, the Agency concluded that the world could only increase its emissions by 5% between now and 2020, the same increase that we witnessed between 2009-2010! The uptick in emissions in 2010 is largely attributable to developing States, especially China and India, with only 25% of emissions growth in 2009-2010 attributable to OECD States.

An excellent source for statistics on GHG emissions and scenarios to avoid passing critical thresholds is the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2010. The 2011 edition of this publication will include more discussion of the implications of fossil fuel infrastructure “lock in” for climate change policy.

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