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November 14, 2007

Report: The World Must Help China and India Handle Energy Growth

Energy developments in China and India are transforming the global energy system as a result of their sheer size, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA's "World Energy Outlook 2007" warns that global energy consumption could increase "well over 50%" by 2030. Energy use in China and India could double by 2030, providing nearly half the world's growth in energy consumption. If that happened, global carbon dioxide emissions from energy use would increase by 57%. The world's oil production would also be increasingly concentrated in the Middle East, and the IEA notes that "it is very uncertain" whether supplies would keep up with demand. "A supply-side crunch in the period to 2015, involving an abrupt escalation in oil prices, cannot be ruled out," notes the IEA. And of course, things will be even worse if the world experiences faster growth than currently anticipated.

Fortunately, the IEA also sees the possibility for a brighter energy future. Measures to improve energy efficiency could cause global carbon dioxide emissions to level off in the 2020s. The savings would be greatest in China and India, suggesting that international efforts to help those countries achieve greater energy efficiencies could be fruitful for both world energy security and for addressing global climate change. But even in this energy efficient scenario, carbon dioxide emissions would still end up about 25% above current levels by 2030.

If the world decides to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide at around 450 parts per million (a goal often cited by climate scientists), global emissions would have to peak in 2012 and fall sharply below 2005 levels by 2030, according to the IEA. That could be achieved through a combination of aggressive energy efficiency measures, greater use of renewable and nuclear energy sources, and widespread deployment of carbon capture and storage technologies, says the report. But to make this a reality would require "exceptionally quick and vigorous policy action by all countries, and unprecedented technological advances," according to the IEA. The report stresses that the next 10 years will be crucial for shifting the world's energy supply toward a cleaner, more efficient, and more secure path. See the IEA press release.

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