The International Energy Agency on Monday warned that growing energy-related emissions have put the world on track to hit a troubling rise in temperatures.
The energy sector accounts for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions, the Paris-based organization said. Despite a pace of emissions that has world temperatures on track to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, some minor adjustments by world governments could slow emissions without any serious economic costs, the agency said.
Getting those changes to happen, however, will require serious action by governments, the agency said.
“The weight of scientific analysis tells us that our climate is already changing and that we should expect extreme weather events (such as storms, floods and heat waves) to become more frequent and intense, as well as increasing global temperatures and rising sea levels,” the agency said in a report released Monday titled “Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map.”
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World governments, including those of the United States and China, have long agreed that they should avoid a global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius, compared with pre-industrial levels.
But rising emissions from the energy sector have put the world on pace to increase world temperatures by as much as 5.3 degrees Celsius, the agency said.
A spokesman for the oil-industry lobbying group the American Petroleum Institute said the organization was still reviewing the IEA report and was not prepared to comment on it. But major oil companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp., have acknowledged the role of energy in accelerating climate change and have called for efforts to curb emissions. Exxon Mobil has supported a carbon tax to help cut emissions.
The IEA said the increasing pace of energy emissions have come even as changes in the United States have pushed U.S. emissions down 200 million tons, to levels similar to the mid-1990s.
China made some progress with its emissions, which slowed in their growth partly because of gains in renewable energy usage, but the world’s largest country was still its largest air polluter.
The IEA said the world could put itself back on track toward avoiding a 2-degree increase in temperatures if governments implemented policies that would encourage things like energy efficient buildings.
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In fact, improving energy efficiency of new buildings worldwide could cut emissions by 1.5 gigatons by 2020, a level equivalent to the entire emissions of Russia, the agency said.
The energy efficiency gains would result in nearly half of the emissions cuts that the agency proposed to get through changes.
The other reductions in emissions would come from reducing methane emissions from oil and gas production, cutting fossil fuel subsidies that exist in some countries, and limiting the use of inefficient coal power plants, the agency said.
The IEA said those four efforts to cut emissions would come at no net economic cost and woucl cut greenhouse gas emissions by 3.1 gigatons, or 80 percent of the savings required for a 2-degree path.
“Delaying stronger climate action to 2020 would come at a cost: $1.5 trillion in low-carbon investments are avoided before 2020, but $5 trillion in additional investments would be required thereafter to get back on track,” the agency said.