The International Energy Agency released its World Energy Outlook this November, outlining the changes in global supply and demand for energy.
One of the big revelations in the report was the United States will surpass Saudi Arabia and Russia in oil production by the year 2020, due mostly to the fact both Saudi Arabia and Russia’s projected oil output decreased significantly from previous years. This puts the United States ahead by default.
Within a few days of the release of the WEO report, the World Bank released another report, titled “Turn Down the Heat.” It outlines the effects of allowing the world to heat up by 4 degrees Celsius by 2100 — the effects range from rising sea levels to extreme heat waves and droughts.
The WEO projections of the U.S. becoming a leader in oil production could be seen in a positive light, with the creation of more jobs and oil exports increasing through 2020. However, the implications of increasing our fossil fuel dependence are a much dimmer prospect: current projections show most of the emissions allowable in order to keep the world under a 2-degree-Celsius increase are already locked in.
Most members of the international community agree warming must be held below 2 degrees Celsius to avoid disastrous environmental and economic repercussions. Currently, the world has heated by an average of 0.8 degrees Celsius from the pre-industrial era, which itself is an unprecedented increase.
We have already seen weather patterns consistent with the effects of increased global temperatures. Heat waves in the past couple years have occurred globally, notably in the Middle East, Russia and the United States.
The magnitude and increased occurrence of these heat waves in the past decade are consistent with global warming. While not all natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, can be attributed to global warming, our response to such events shows how ill prepared we are to deal with more intense weather patterns.
As the world’s population and the demand for energy continue to grow, our current energy reserves — fossil fuels — will become depleted at a greater rate. Emissions will continue to be a problem — even if industrialized nations switch to natural gas and renewables, many developing nations will continue to depend on coal and other dirty sources of energy.
It is easy to dismiss the dangers of global warming and pass the buck on to future generations, but it is very likely its effects will manifest themselves within our lifetimes.
There will either be a crisis of energy — supply not being able to keep up with demand — or enormous economic and environmental damage to various parts of the world. Neither of these options is palatable, but until collective security measures are proactively pursued, we will remain on course for an enormous energy crisis within our lifetimes.
Here at Tech, students should pursue sustainable goals to reduce their environmental footprint.
There are many ways students can get involved in the movement toward a better environment. Beyond Coal and the Environmental Coalition are two organizations working to create a more sustainable lifestyle. These organizations, along with others, are worth exploring and can help you find out what you as a Virginia Tech student can do to help the environment. Their websites — vtbeyondcoal.wordpress.com and theecvt.com, respectively — can provide you a way to move forward.
This is where change can be made — right here at home.