Oct 31, 2019 - Energy & Environment

How climate change makes fighting it harder

Reproduced from IEA; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from IEA; Chart: Axios Visuals

The effects of climate change can create new hurdles to the fight against climate change.

What's happening: New International Energy Agency reports on southeast Asia have eye-popping numbers on the rise of air conditioning use. This reflects IEA’s “stated policies” scenario that assumes existing policies and plans, as well as evolution of “known technologies.”

  • It's largely due to higher incomes and economic growth as more people, thankfully, have access to cooling that's taken for granted in rich countries.
  • However, IEA notes that "rising temperatures will also play a part in these growth rates" and more heat and humidity also mean more frequent use.

Why it matters: It adds to soaring energy demand in the region. And while renewables are growing, IEA sees growth in use of all fossil fuels — including coal — through 2040 too.

  • What's next: The IEA reports offer recommendations for boosting the efficiency of cooling and more broadly speeding up renewables deployment.

And the hotter and drier conditions climate change brings are among the slew of forces that are increasing the risks of devastating fires in California and elsewhere.

  • A deeply reported L.A. Times piece this week explores how those fires could frustrate emissions-cutting efforts in California, the world's fifth largest economy.
  • The Times' Sammy Roth writes: "[California's] plans for slashing climate emissions depend on a stable electric grid delivering clean electricity to the cars, homes and businesses of the world’s fifth-largest economy."
  • "The jarring new reality of preemptive blackouts could frustrate those plans by throwing the grid’s reliability into doubt."

The state of play: Those are just two instances of a wider challenge.

  • For instance, consider how global warming's various effects, such as its contribution to migration, can create problems that compete for attention with emissions-cutting efforts.
  • Limited budgets could mean tradeoffs between building resilience and reducing emissions to reduce future harm.

Go deeper: How your air conditioner plays catch-up to regulations

Go deeper