November 09, 2011

Events from Around Town: The Climate and Energy Nexus

Starting at 9 a.m. this morning, our friends at the Pew
Center for Global Climate Change are hosting an event at the Newseum in
Washington, “Toward
Climate and Energy Solutions
,” featuring former U.S. Senator John Warner, Entergy
CEO Wayne Leonard, Resources for the Future President Phil Sharp, moderated by
NBC’s Ann Thompson. For those of you unable to join downtown, you can watch the
webcast here.
(I recommend you tune in.)   

The event couldn’t come at a better time. As the economy
slowly rebounds, competing priorities for scarce federal and private sector dollars
continue to threaten to edge out important opportunities to invest in green
energy technologies. The Pew Center event is meant in part to renew the
conversation on energy and climate security and develop solutions for
mobilizing action and investment to help foster the clean energy sector America
needs to make serious progress on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions while
ensuring access to more reliable sources of energy.

And when I say the event couldn’t come at a better time, I
mean it. Just this morning, The Wall
Street Journal
reported that the International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a
warning yesterday that “Dangerous
climate change will be ‘locked in’ within little more than five years and there
are few signs that the world will stop this happening

The Wall Street Journal added that:

To prevent long-term average global
temperatures rising more than two Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the
world would have to make immediate and drastic changes to its energy and
industrial policies that look unlikely in current circumstances, the IEA said.

Limiting the increase in
temperatures to two Celsius, widely seen as the maximum safe increase, would
require the reversal of several of the strongest trends in energy consumption.
The use of both coal and oil, which together provided 60% of world energy in
2009, would need to start falling by 2016, the IEA said. Under current trends,
coal and oil use are forecast to rise by 60% and 25% respectively between 2009
and 2035.


At the same time, rate of increase
in energy efficiency and the amount of energy generated by wind, wave and solar
and nuclear power will have to increase dramatically, the IEA said.

These changes would require an
additional $15.2 trillion investment in clean energy by 2035, the IEA said.
This cost would be offset somewhat by a $4.6 trillion reduction in the need for
investment in fossil fuel production and lower forecasts for oil, gas and coal

We are approaching a potential inflection point. With the
right investments and political will the United States can help kick start a
major global transition in the energy sector that will profoundly shape the
security environment in the future. Indeed, given the likely climate change
manifestations that are likely to develop in a world where the average temperature
has increased passed two degrees Celsius – including drought, more frequent and
intense storms, sea level rise and coastal flooding – and the political and
social consequences that could occur in countries vulnerable to environmental
disruptions, like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, the United States has every
incentive to do what it can to prevent those conditions from developing.