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close this bookEnergy after Rio - Prospects and Challenges - Executive Summary (UNDP, 1997, 38 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentForeword
View the documentNotes on the Authors and Contributors
View the documentAbstract
View the document1. Introduction
close this folder2. Energy and Major Global Issues
View the document(introduction...)
close this folder2.1 Energy and Social Issues
View the document2.1.1 Poverty
View the document2.1.2 Gender Disparity
View the document2.1.3 Population
View the document2.1.4 Undernutrition and Food
close this folder2.2 Energy and Environment
View the document2.2.1 Health
View the document2.2.2 Acidification
View the document2.2.3 Climate Change
View the document2.2.4 Land Degradation
close this folder2.3 Energy and the Economy
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View the document2.3.1 Investment Requirements of Energy
View the document2.3.2 Foreign Exchange Impacts of Energy Imports
close this folder2.4 Energy and Security
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View the document2.4.1 Energy and National Security
View the document2.4.2 Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Weapons Proliferation
View the document2.5 Energy and Global Issues: The Implications
close this folder3. New Opportunities in Energy Demand, Supply and Systems
View the document3.1 Introduction
View the document3.2 Demand Side: Energy and Energy-Intensive Materials Efficiency
View the document3.3 Supply Side: Renewables and Clean Fossil Fuel Technologies
View the document3.4 Fuels and Stoves for Cooking
close this folder4. Sustainable Strategies
View the document4.1 Global Energy Scenarios
View the document4.2 Implications for the Developing World
View the document4.3 Implications for Energy Exporting Economies
close this folder4.4 Some General Implications of Sustainable Energy Systems
View the document4.4.1 Energy and the Economy
View the document4.4.2 Energy and Poverty
View the document4.4.3 Creating Jobs
View the document4.4.4 Women
View the document4.4.5 Rural Development
View the document4.4.6 Urban Development
View the document4.4.7 Energy and the Environment
View the document4.4.8 Energy and Security
View the document4.5 Conclusions
View the document5. Making It Happen: Energy for Sustainable Development
View the documentGlossary of Abbreviations

2.2.3 Climate Change

According to the 1995 Scientific Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “The body of statistical evidence now points towards a discernible human influence on global climate.” This influence is due to the increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases since pre-industrial times, and the effect of this increase on the energy balance of the Earth.

It is now the view of the IPCC that continued increases in greenhouse gas concentrations, as a result of human activity, will lead to significant climate change (enhanced global warming) in the coming century. However, uncertainties still exist limiting our ability to quantify human influence and project the future. Nevertheless, it appears that major changes are required in current fossil-fuel-based energy consumption patterns. This is because business-as-usual is likely to increase carbon emissions by a factor of three by 2100, whereas according to the IPCC, emissions will have to fall far below the present level in order to stabilise the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Earlier IPCC findings spurred governments to sign the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) in Rio (1992). Since 1994, the UNFCCC has now been ratified by more than four-fifths of the UN member states (164 as of end of 1996). The UNFCCC involves voluntary, rather than binding, emission stabilisation commitments. Targets and timetables for emission reductions are now being negotiated. Inventories of human-related emissions of CO, (1990-1995 and 2000 projections) have shown that most industrialised countries will not, in fact, meet their voluntary target of limiting their year 2000 emissions to 1990 levels.

The threat of climate change is principally an energy-related problem. Current energy systems are based on the combustion of fossil fuels which account for 76% of the world’s primary energy. This combustion leads to about three-fourths of the annual human-related emissions of the main greenhouse gas CO2. These annual emissions accumulate, increasing the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Even taking into account the quantitative uncertainties, current energy patterns are leading the world down a path that is unsustainable by threatening the global climate. This is the energy-climate change nexus.