Nov 15, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The brutal gap between ambition and reality in addressing climate change

Annual global energy consumption
Data: Global Carbon Project, BP; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

One thing that was unavoidable at COP26 was the jarring dissonance between the pledges of action and the current global energy and emissions trajectory.

The big picture: The chart above shows the upward march of global fossil fuel consumption even as renewables have surged.

  • Use dipped in 2020 during the pandemic but emissions are rebounding this year. Those steep and sustained cuts that summits like COP26 are supposed to help enable? Nowhere in evidence.

What they're saying: Columbia University climate expert Jason Bordoff delves into this ambition-reality gap on the "Talking Politics" podcast that's affiliated with the London Review of Books.

  • "Right now, I fear that it's getting wider apart, because the ambition, fortunately, is being elevated. But the more the ambition is elevated, the more the gap widens, unless the reality starts to change as fast or faster," he said.
  • "And the reality is, oil use is going up each year, gas use is going up each year, coal is going up now, maybe it's going to plateau, it's not falling off a cliff. And that is just how hard the math of decarbonization is."
  • "So we just need that reality to change much more quickly. And the math is unforgiving."

Go deeper: COP26 climate deal calls for historic shift from fossil fuels

Go deeper