For optimists, it was tempting to view three years of flatlining global carbon emissions, from 2014-16, as the new normal. We now know celebrations should be put on hold. Figures for 2017 published last week show global emissions from energy have jumped back up again, to a historic high.
The data from the International Energy Agency shows we still have much to do when it comes to stopping global warming. Three years ago experts cautioned that 2015’s near standstill in emissions might be only a temporary pause before resuming the upward march as India and China developed. Those warnings were prophetic.
Global energy demand last year grew by 2.1%, more than double the rate in 2016, driven largely by Asia. The problem for the climate is that more than 70% of the growth came from fossil fuels. Gas was the fastest-growing fossil fuel. But even coal, the most carbon-intensive fuel, reversed two years of declines and was up by 1%, as coal burning in China, India and South Korea grew.
To compound matters, progress on energy efficiency slowed dramatically in the face of lower energy prices and weakening government policy. On the plus side, renewables were the fastest-growing source of new energy and had another unprecedented year. China added as much solar power in a single year as the total installed capacity across France and Germany. The US scored the steepest drop in emissions, despite Donald Trump’s first year as president, as new renewable generation bloomed. Read More
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