Nov 12, 2018 - Energy & Environment

Projected renewables surge won't prevent runaway global warming

Projected growth of renewable power, electric vehicles and other low-carbon sources won't prevent levels of global warming that soar past the targets of the Paris climate agreement, the International Energy Agency said Monday.

Data: International Energy Agency, World Outlook 2018; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The big picture: Current trends mean sharply rising energy thirst that's met with a fuel supply that's way too carbon-heavy to keep the eventual temperatures rise less than 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Why it matters: The annual World Energy Outlook report provides a detailed look at global and regional energy demand growth estimates and the projected resource mix through 2040.

The report looks out to 2040 based on three main pathways:

  1. Existing laws and regulatory policies worldwide.
  2. A "new policies" scenario that incorporates countries' announced plans and emissions targets, including national pledges under the Paris deal.
  3. A far more ambitious "sustainable development" scenario aligned with the goals of Paris.

By the numbers: Under the "new policies" scenario through 2040, the report projects that . . .

  • Total global energy demand rises by over one-fourth — with electricity demand specifically rising 60% — despite gains in energy efficiency. Demand growth is driven by rising incomes, urbanization and population growth in developing countries.
  • Renewable electricity grows to 40% of the global power mix, largely driven by solar and wind. Coal's share, meanwhile, declines to roughly a fourth.
  • But the whole energy pie has grown, so total consumption of coal, the most carbon-emitting fossil fuel, remains roughly flat, with "declines in China, Europe and North America offset by rises in India and Southeast Asia."
  • Oil demand rises slightly, driven by developing nations, to 106 million barrels per day despite the growth of electric vehicles. Oil demand for trucks, planes, petrochemicals and other sectors makes up for barrels displaced by electric cars, which grow to 300 million on the roads.
  • "Natural gas overtakes coal in 2030 to become the second-largest fuel in the global energy mix [behind oil]," the report states.

The bottom line: "The New Policies Scenario puts energy-related CO2 emissions on a slow upward trend to 2040, a trajectory far out of step with what scientific knowledge says will be required to tackle climate change," the report states.

Note: I'll have more takeaways from the report tomorrow morning in Generate, our free daily email newsletter on energy. You can sign up here.

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