A Twitter thread by brad plumer.
I'm going to tweet out a few additional interesting findings from this year's Global Carbon Project report.
You can read the main findings in this story: CO2 emissions from fossil fuels rose 0.6% in 2019, reaching a record high. Bad news for climate: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/03/climate/carbon-dioxide-emissions.html … /1
First, this is a projection and there are uncertainties (range: -0.2% to 1.5%). So a small possibility emissions actually plateaued or declined slightly.
Here's how past projections stacked up with final numbers after all data is in. Usually pretty close, but China's hard: /2
Coal has hit a wall. Global coal emissions dropped ~0.9% this year and are still below 2012 levels.
In the U.S., coal emissions fell ~10% this year. In the EU, coal generation fell 22% (!) through October, as cap-and-trade prices were rising. https://www.uni-muenchen.de/aktuelles/pdf/global_carbon_budget.pdf … /3
At the same time, existing coal plants still make up ~42% of global emissions. To make headway on climate change, it's not enough for coal to stay on its current plateau. Lots of existing plants need to run way less often, retire early, or maybe get retrofitted with CCS. /4
Natural gas and oil are mostly responsible for pushing up emissions of late—with gas responsible for ~60% of recent emissions growth.
If gas displaces coal, that's likely better for climate. But it's obviously worse than carbon-free options. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab57b3 … /5
I found this graph stunning. The carbon intensity of global energy is nearly the same as it was in 1990. It's maybe getting a bit cleaner in recent years as wind and solar have been surging, but right now global energy is roughly as dirty, on average, as it was 30 years ago. /6
One reason for that: As you can see here, renewables have been growing right as nuclear has stalled out. So total carbon-free energy has been struggling to keep pace with fossil fuels. Hopefully that will soon change — note that renewables are now growing 14% per year. /7
But bottom line: As long as carbon intensity remains flat and improvements in energy intensity are less than the pace of global economic growth, global CO2 emissions will go up each year. Basic math. And that's exactly what's been happening lately. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab57b3/pdf … /8
The GCP projects that emissions are likely to rise again in 2020, barring a global recession or some other big surprise. (And surprises do happen — this year a strong monsoon season in India helped the country use more hydropower instead of coal, pushing emissions down.) /9
Also, this data is just fossil CO2. GCP also estimated that the increase in 2019 deforestation emissions (e.g. fires in Brazil) was four times as big as increase in fossil CO2. But early estimates are uncertain and land use fluctuates a lot annually. https://www.uni-muenchen.de/aktuelles/pdf/global_carbon_budget.pdf … /10
I thought the decadal estimates here were notable: In the 2000s, global fossil CO2 emissions rose at 3% a year. Since 2010, they've risen at 0.9% a year. Progress!
But how much was policy vs structural changes vs China's coal binge slowing? Unclear. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-019-0659-6 … /11
Another interesting stat: In the US, there's about one vehicle for every person. In India, there's one vehicle for every 40 people.
How India develops in the future — and whether they can avoid the CO2-heavy path the US/EU/China took — matters a lot. https://news.stanford.edu/press-releases/2019/12/03/global-carbon-emissions-increase/ … /12
Finally, here's a chart of per capita emissions. They've come way down in the US in recent years but they're still way above almost everyone else. China is now about on par with the EU. And India is still tiny, though growing fast. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab57b3/pdf … /13