Jun 12, 2019

The world goes the wrong way on carbon emissions

Ben Geman, author of Generate
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Data: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2019; Chart: Axios Visuals

BP's latest global energy stats report shows that CO2 emissions from energy, which create the lion's share, grew at their fastest rate in 7 years in 2018 as energy demand surged.

Why it matters: The report yesterday joins other analyses in concluding that emissions are heading upward amid scientific findings showing the need to deeply cut them in coming decades to prevent runaway warming.

The big picture: China, the U.S. and India together accounted for roughly two-thirds of energy consumption growth last year, including a "whopping" 3.5% rise in the U.S., the fastest growth in 3 decades, notes the "Statistical Review of World Energy."

  • Overall, a nearly 3% rise in energy consumption was the fastest since 2010.
  • Natural gas saw the largest usage boost but all fuels saw increases.

Where it stands: BP chief economist Spencer Dale said in remarks yesterday that the surprising growth in energy use relative to underlying economic conditions stems from last year's large number of hot and cold days.

  • This led to greater use of heating and air conditioning, causing the "possibility of a worrying vicious cycle," in which "[i]ncreasing levels of carbon leading to more extreme weather patterns, which in turn trigger stronger growth in energy (and carbon emissions) as households and businesses seek to offset their effects," Dale said.

Threat level: He cautioned that there are "many people better qualified than I to make judgements on this," but added:

"[E]ven if these weather effects are short lived, such that the growth in energy demand and carbon emissions slow over the next few years, the recent trends still feel very distant from the types of transition paths consistent with meeting the Paris climate goals."

Go deeper: Earth's carbon dioxide has jumped to the highest level in human history

Go deeper

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