World Energy Outlook 2010

The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2010 was released this week. Among the take-aways of the Executive Summary that are germane to climate change courses, based on the Agency’s “New Policies” central scenario for energy use and GHG emissions:

  1. World energy demand is projected to grow by 1.2% annually through 2035, slightly lower than the Current Policies scenario, which sees a 1.4% annual increase; fossil fuels still accounts for over half of total primary energy demand;
  2. The use of renewable energy sources triples under the New Policies Outlook, meeting 14% of primary energy demand by 2035, up from 7% currently. Renewable energy could a third of electricity production by 2035, but this requires a very substantial increase in government support;
  3. The commitments made under the Copenhagen Accord put the world on pace to stabilize GHG emissions at 650ppm, resulting in temperature increases of more than 3.5C in the long term;
    • By contrast, stabilizing atmospheric concentrations at 450ppm, which provides a reasonable prospect for avoiding temperature increases of more than 2C would require reducing emissions from 35GT to 22 by 2035. This would necessitate a “far reaching transformation of the global energy system,” including oil demand peaking in 2020 at only 4 million barrels/day above current use in 2020, and declining substantially thereafter, and coal demand reverting to 2003 levels by 2035. Renewable energy would have to reach 45% of global energy generation also. Other assumptions include a 50% increase in nuclear power, advanced vehicles comprising 70% of the transportation market by 2035, and big increases in the use of biofuels;
  4. Under the scenario of stabilizing emissions at 450ppm, the tepid commitments of Copenhagen now translate into an increase in expenditures required after 2020 of more than $1 trillion and global GDP could be reduced by 1.9% in 2030 instead of 0.9% with more ambitious commitments;
  5. Countries must meet the top of the ranges for emissions reductions, or reductions in emissions intensity for there to be a plausible chance of not passing the 2C threshold;
  6. Cutting the $312 billion in annual fossil fuel subsidies would reduce energy demand by 5% in 2020, and GHG emissions by 5.8.

The Executive Summary is 18 pages and suitable for undergraduate or graduate-level courses; it provides an excellent overview of the nexus of energy use and GHG emissions, the daunting challenge we face in not exceeding the 2C threshold, and some potential policy options that could prove critical in the years ahead. There’s also some excellent graphs for Power Point presentations.

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