Any analysis of the current state of geopolitics and economic development reveals a pervasive sense of insecurity about future energy supply and global climate disruption. How to meet our ever increasing energy needs and wants in a responsible and environmentally sustainable way is one of the most vexing social and technological conundrums facing the world today.
The most recent World Energy Outlook report of the International Energy Agency (IEA) describes the rise in energy demand as 'alarming' and paints a pessimistic picture of uncertainty in production capacity and soaring prices. The current demand of 85 million barrels a day is predicted to rise to 116 million barrels in 2030 with the increase in demand dominated by China and India. The IEA's reference case scenario also predicts that emissions of greenhouse gases will jump by 57 per cent between 2005 and 2030, with China overtaking the US in 2008 as the biggest emitter (IEA, 2008).
Coincident with growing energy demand, climate change is forcing us to face the inevitability of a carbon-constrained world. The analysis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has left no doubt about the need for urgent collective policy action to redirect the world community to a more sustainable energy path. Their fourth assessment documents with clarity and greater certainty that 'warming of the climate system is unequivocal' and that most of the observed increase in temperatures is very likely due to an increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. Emissions continue to increase, with a substantial jump of 70 per cent between 1970 and 2004. Observational evidence and our understanding of the real and potential impacts are mounting.
A risk management strategy of mitigation and adaptation is being developed, albeit slowly, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The discussion about the Bali Roadmap in December 2007
and 2008 drew attention to the challenge of developing a comprehensive global strategy that will engage all major emitters while recognizing the developing country imperatives of economic growth and poverty alleviation.
Thus, global climate disruption has opened the door for discussion about a potential nuclear renaissance to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
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