Josephine V. Yam

2012 Energy and Climate Outlook

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change recently published its 2012 Energy and Climate Outlook report (the “2012 Outlook”). The goal of 2012 Outlook is to improve public understanding of the global environment and energy challenges that our world faces, especially in meeting the needs of a projected population of 10 billion people by 2100. It provides solid research that underlies the tight correlation between human endeavours and environmental change.

One of the many significant findings set out in the 2012 Outlook refers to emission targets that G20 nations made at the 2009 Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen. While those Copenhagen targets begin a transition to alternative energy in developed countries and China, they do not provide sufficient incentive to create the full transformation needed within the energy system to stop dangerous levels of climate change. Such necessary transformation envisions wide-scale adoption of renewables, carbon capture and storage, nuclear or alternative propulsion systems in vehicles.

Another significant finding is that while emissions from fossil fuels are huge, other greenhouse gas and land use emissions are also primordial and need to be addressed in order to achieve more stringent stabilization and temperature goals. If policies to reduce them fail, a major opportunity to limit climate change may be missed.

The report concludes: “[T]he Copenhagen pledges do not take us very far in the energy transformation ultimately needed to avoid the risk of dangerous warming. Even if policy efforts in developed countries are successful in holding emissions constant, the emission increases of other nations – growing and industrializing – will contribute to further increases in greenhouse gas concentrations and climate change.”

The full text of 2012 Outlook can be accessed at this link.