Energy … You’d think we’d be savin’ it up.

To change the world’s energy model is the most significant challenge facing humanity.
– Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

What does our energy use look like for now? How much energy does a Kenyan use compared to an Australian?   How much does it take to produce goods and services in China compared to India?  How much pollution is all this causing?

Pay a little now or a lot later?

Climate change has stirred controversy since scientists first started debating it.  Cop15 seems to signal a new consensus  – or at least the beginnings of one.  But many big questions remain : How will climate change actually affect people’s daily lives?  What’s the best way to attack the problem ?  Who should pay the bill?

Agreeing that climate change is a world problem requiring world cooperation is only the first step, and many of us watching the summit wonder what real solutions will emerge.

As political leaders settle in to negotiate an agreement, we should be aware of a basic economic fact:  the costs of tackling climate change are moderate provided that we start lowering emissions now.   OECD calculations show that the longer we wait, the more expensive the bill.

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Ten trillion well spent

The IEA has a message for all the negotiators in Copenhagen: keep on doing things the way we’re doing them now and catastrophe is just around the corner. That’s the stark conclusion from the latest World Energy Outlook, released in London on 10 November. “Continuation of current trends in energy use puts the world on track for a rise in temperature of up to 6°C and poses serious threats to global energy security” according to the IEA.
The reference scenario sees demand increasing by 40% between now and 2030, and pollution would worsen, with fossil fuels accounting for over three-quarters of the extra demand. The good news is that it would only take $10.5 trillion over the next 20 years to keep the temperature rise below 2°C.
If that sounds exorbitant even in these days of trillion dollar financial rescue packages, the IEA calculated that energy bills in transport, buildings and industry alone would be reduced by $8.6 trillion. And in addition to avoiding severe climate change, this cost would also be offset by other economic, health and energy-security benefits.