A rise is still a rise, however, and if no action is taken, there is no way to keep the world from exceeding an accompanying temperature rise of 2°C (3.6°F), the internationally accepted target that scientists say will present problems, but ones that we can adapt to. Without action, we're headed for a 5.3°C rise (that's 9°F). Catastrophic.
Delay is denial.
Right now, according to the IEA report, by 2020 we will exceed by four billion tons the CO2 level scientists say is necessary for staying on a 2°C trajectory .
Of course, the deniers say that cutting back on the burning of fossil fuels is unnecessary since global warming isn't happening. But they aren't the only obstacles to action. There are also the delayers, the business leaders and elected officials who say they accept the scientific evidence of climate change as reality but shy away from doing anything about it because they claim the cost of cutting back on our use of fossil fuels is too high. They don't want to discuss the cost of not doing so. The authors of the report do talk about it. Their conclusion ought to make the need for action obvious even to those folks who believe that the environment and economy are separate entities.
By refusing to take action curbing fossil fuel burning between now and 2020, they conclude, the world would "save" $1.5 trillion. But the costs of getting back on track to 2°C after delaying action until 2020 would be $5 trillion. Thus, the myopic delayer approach has a $3.5 trillion price-tag.
Delay is denial.
Not just of the impacts of climate change but of the costs of dealing with it. Please continue reading below the fold for details of what the IEA report says should be done and some more charts.
Instead of delay, the report recommends a 4-for-2°C approach—four specific measures that can be taken immediately up through 2020 at "no net economic cost." These, it contends, would cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 3.1 billion tons of CO2, 80 percent of the level needed to stay under the 2 °C trajectory. That would, the authors state optimistically, "buy precious time" in the run-up to the Paris Climate Conference in 2015. Specifically:
• Targeted energy efficiency measures to reduce global energy-related emissions
by 1.5 billion tons. Included would be energy performance standards in buildings for lighting, new appliances, and for new heating and cooling equipment͖ in industry for motor systems͖ and, in transport for road vehicles.
• Ensuring that new subcritical coal-fired plants are no longer built͕ and limiting the use of
the least efficient existing ones͕ would reduce emissions by 640 million tons in 2020 and also help curb local air pollution. Globally, the use of such plants would be one-quarter
lower than would otherwise be expected in 2020.
• Using existing technology could reduce methane releases from the oil and gas industry by nearly half in 2020͕ compared with otherwise expected emission levels equivalent to 1.1 billion tons of CO2.
• Accelerating a partial phase-out of fossil-fuel subsidies would reduce CO2 emissions by 360 million tons in 2020. These subsidies worldwide amounted to $523 billion in 2011, about six times what renewable energy sources receive.
We've been told repeatedly about the impacts of unchecked climate change. Accelerated species extinction, coastal sea rise and flooding that produces hundreds of millions of refugees, a shortage of fresh water and disruption of agriculture, the spread of disease, extended droughts and more extreme storms. But even as the evidence grows, and the calls for action rise, only limited moves have been taken in a few places to reduce or stop the behavior that is leading us toward that new world.
"Climate change has quite frankly slipped to the back burner of policy priorities. But the problem is not going away—quite the opposite," said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven.
Delay is denial.