Answer to Energy Crisis? Waste Not, Want Not

By Stephen Leahy*

BROOKLIN, Canada, Oct 23 (IPS/IFEJ) – Soaring worldwide demand for energy is driving climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions dangerously higher, and even as investments grow in new “clean” energy sources, existing technologies to reduce energy use are being neglected.

Energy remains crucial to economic development in a world where over 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity. While the media and government focus has been on greener and cleaner ways to generate power through renewable sources like biofuels, wind, solar and hydrogen, experts say that major improvements in energy efficiency could dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, save money and provide the breathing space needed to improve and develop new energy sources.

Scientists estimate that to avoid dangerous climate change (generally viewed as a two-degree rise in global temperatures), world greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by about 60 percent from today’s levels by 2050.

At the same time, world energy demand is projected to increase by over 50 percent between now and 2030, and that will raise energy-related carbon dioxide emissions 52 percent higher than they are today, reported the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its 2005 World Energy Outlook, considered the definitive report on global energy.

That energy path is unsustainable, warns the IEA, which is calling for major changes.

“The need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions means a drastic overhaul of how we produce energy,” said Christopher Flavin, president of the Worldwatch Institute, a U.S. environmental group.

“We are facing the biggest economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution,” Flavin told IPS.


CARBON FORESTS: Can the Free Market Slow Deforestation?

Sumatra burning forest courtesy of Kim Worm Sorensen sml

By Stephen Leahy

IPS 28/10/2006

Tropical forests’ ability to store carbon dioxide and mitigate climate change makes them more valuable than alternative uses like pasture or lumber, and rich countries ought to pay tropical countries to preserve their forests, the World Bank says.

However, some environmentalists caution that while reducing deforestation is vital, a so-called carbon trading system is the wrong approach and too complicated to implement.

The world’s tropical forests have been shrinking at a rate of five percent per decade since the 1950s. In the past five years, more than 50 million hectares of tropical forest have been lost — an area nearly the size of France. Aside from the loss of biodiversity, destruction of ecosystems and other negative impacts, deforestation is a major source of human-made emissions of climate-altering greenhouse gases (GHGs).

In fact, deforestation contributes almost twice as much GHGs as does all road transport around the world.

“The trees are worth more alive, storing carbon, than they would be worth if burned and transformed to unproductive fields,” said Kenneth Chomitz, lead author of the World Bank report released Monday. Continue reading