International Agency Issues Dire Warning

Gretchen Weber

Navajo Generating Station, near Page, AZ

By Susanne Rust

Just as the federal government released its annual index of greenhouse gases, showing a steady increase over the past 21 years, the International Energy Agency warned that we are on the path to 11-degree warming if we don’t curb emissions now.

“Delaying action is a false economy: For every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would be needed to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions,” the authors of the energy agency report wrote in their 2011 World Energy Outlook.

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its annual accounting of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The index showed a 29 percent increase over levels recorded in 1990, the agency’s baseline year, as established by the Kyoto protocol.

“The increasing amounts of long-lived greenhouse gases in our atmosphere indicate that climate change is an issue society will be dealing with for a long time,” said Jim Butler, director of the Global Monitoring Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

Butler says you have to think of this number not as a predictor, but more like a dial on an electric blanket. You know that if you turn the dial up, the blanket will get warmer. You may not feel the warmth immediately, but it will get warmer – just how warm, you don’t know.

One of the more striking findings in the agency’s report includes the increase in methane found in the atmosphere. The level of that gas has increased in the last four years, after holding steady for more than a decade. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

Butler said that increase is likely attributable to the thawing of permafrost and an increase of methane escaping from tropical areas.

“Climate warming has the potential to affect most aspects of society, including water supplies, agriculture, ecosystems and economies,” said Butler, who added that his agency will continue to monitor these gases “into the future to further understand the impacts on our planet.”

His warning was echoed by the International Energy Agency, which said “rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.”

Joe Romm, former assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Energy and now editor of the blog Climate Progress, said the International Energy Agency “is one of the few organizations in the world with a sophisticated enough global energy model to do credible … projections of the cost of different emissions pathways and the costs of delaying efforts to achieve them.”

He said the key point of the report is that in the 2020s, “the world is going to be considerably more desperate than we are now. The evidence of human-caused climate change will be difficult for all but the most extreme deniers to ignore.”

He added that superstorms, like the one in Alaska last week, “will increasingly just be the normal weather – and we’ll start to see what really extreme weather is like.”

This post also appears at California Watch, a content partner of Climate Watch.

  • Russ Steele

    NCDC data shows summer temperatures falling in five out of nine regions in the US and winter temperatures plunging in all nine regions.  So, I ask Joe Romm, how could global warming have caused the Alaska super storm, when there has been no warming for the last ten years and temperatures are plunging.

    Storms like this latest storm are more common in Alaska about very 20-25 years, including Thanksgiving day storm in 1986 with wind speed was 120 mph.  There was a much stronger storm in 1974, when CO2 had not yet become an issue. In fact the science world in 1974 was worried about the approaching ice age.  So, Joe was it warming that cause these storms as well?  Really?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1447293072 Anonymous

    It seems that the denier cult is still with us. (See Russ Steele’s comment below… filled with mis-information).

    I just want to note that some in the political arena are willing to take action, even if the current federal administration / congress is afraid to.  The following is from a release by Dr. Jill Stein, a candidate for the Green Party’s nomination for POTUS.

    “We are entering uncharted waters, and at any moment we could pass
    the tipping point beyond which reversing the damage will be beyond our
    control.This is not the time for short-sighted decisions to please
    entrenched business interests.We need to say no to the Keystone deal and
    mobilize to protect our planet.”Meanwhile, the current administration assumes that enviros will hold their nose and vote for the lesser of 2 evils yet again.

  • Russ Steele

    Facebook,

    Please tell us what is mis-informtion. The data was from a government data base. The storm dates were from the historical record. Where was the misinformation?  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1447293072 Anonymous

    Russ… quoting you.,.,. “when there has been no warming for the last ten years and temperatures are plunging.”

  • Labyrinth

    Just another agency among the long list of “predictors” that will be proven wrong in a years time. After all the so called “real” data global warming propagandizers, what little there actually is, trying to void the mountains of data proving it to be a hoax. These blind believers don’t even listen to thier own so called scientists when its inconvenient for them.
    Hasn’t it been shown by now that CO2 and warming haven’t been coorelated with each other for some time now ?