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Climate Change

Published on March 26th, 2018 | by James Ayre

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Record-High Global Energy-Related Carbon Emissions In 2017

March 26th, 2018 by  


Record-high energy-related global carbon emissions were released in 2017, according to new estimates from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Altogether, a total of just about 32.5 gigatons of energy-related carbon emissions were released last year — which, while a very substantial number on its own, represents just one fraction of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions figures for agriculture, transit, shipping, and numerous other sectors as well, would have to be accounted for if a complete emissions picture was to be gained. Unofficial natural gas leakage from drilled wells would have to be accounted for as well. And now-activated positive feedback loops (permafrost melting and methane release, etc.) would have to be accounted for also.

So, what does this mean in practice? It’s hard to tell exactly as of yet, but at the very least, global energy-related carbon emissions are not decreasing to any notable extent. On the other hand, it’s a real possibility that global energy-related carbon emissions are still rising (despite the fact that such emissions would have to have begun falling at a rapid rate several years ago if extreme anthropogenic climate warming and weirding was to be curtailed).

My interpretation? Consumerism has “won.” For the time being. Give it a few decades and the situation will change somewhat, and then the blame-seeking, scapegoating, and resource wars will of course begin in earnest. For the time being, though, it appears that everyone simply wants to consume, travel, and indulge, as much as possible.

The idea of “degrowth” has become something of a taboo in recent years, which just about says it all really.

Reuters provides more:

“Global energy demand rose by 2.1% last year to 14,050 million tonnes of oil equivalent, more than twice the previous year’s rate, boosted by strong economic growth, according to preliminary estimates from the IEA. Energy demand rose by 0.9% in 2016 and 0.9% on average over the previous 5 years.

“Over 70% of global energy demand growth was met by oil, natural gas, and coal, while renewables accounted for almost all of the rest, the IEA said in a report. (Author’s note: That includes hydroelectric.) Improvements in energy efficiency slowed last year. As a result of these trends, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased by 1.4% in 2017 to 32.5 gigatons, a record high.

“…The IEA said Asian countries accounted for two-thirds of the global increase in emissions. China’s emissions rose by 1.7% to 9.1 gigatons, limited by renewables deployment and more rapid switching to gas from coal. Most major economies saw an increase in carbon emissions, though Britain, the United States, Mexico, and Japan experienced declines…The IEA said oil demand grew by 1.6%, or 1.5 million barrels a day, more than twice the average annual rate over the past decade, driven by the transport sector and rising petrochemical demand.”

Notably demand for natural gas grew by 3%, and demand for coal grew as well (by 1%).

What that means is that even though renewable energy capacity grew by a large amount in 2017, it didn’t actually displace fossil fuels enough to stop growth in demand for those commodities.


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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.



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