In a paper published today in Nature Geoscience, the authors found that despite the major financial crisis that hit the world last year, global CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuel in 2009 were only 1.3 per cent below the record 2008 figures. This is less than half the drop predicted a year ago.
The industrialized nations saw big drops in CO2 emissions. 8.6% for UK is much deeper than GDP figures would lead one to expect.
The global financial crisis severely affected western economies, leading to large reductions in CO2 emissions. For example, UK emissions were 8.6% lower in 2009 than in 2008. Similar figures apply to USA, Japan, France, Germany, and most other industrialised nations.
But the CO2 emissions growth in China and India suggests rapid economic growth in these countries while Western countries languished.
However, emerging economies had a strong economic performance despite the financial crisis, and recorded substantial increases in CO2 emissions (e.g. China +8 per cent, India +6.2 per cent).
Professor Pierre Friedlingstein, lead author of the research, said: "The 2009 drop in CO2 emissions is less than half that anticipated a year ago. This is because the drop in world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was less than anticipated and the carbon intensity of world GDP, which is the amount of CO2 released per unit of GDP, improved by only 0.7 per cent in 2009 – well below its long-term average of 1.7% per year."
The poor improvements in carbon intensity were caused by an increased share of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions produced by emerging economies with a relatively high carbon intensity, and an increasing reliance on coal.
China now makes more cars per year than the United States. That effectively bakes in a big future growth in Chinese oil consumption. But currently an astounding 74% of China's energy comes from coal. That's a rare level of dependence on coal.
Coal supplied the vast majority (74 percent) of China’s total energy consumption requirements in 2008. Oil is the second-largest source, accounting for 15 percent of the country’s total energy consumption. While China has made an effort to diversify its energy supplies, hydroelectric sources (7 percent), natural gas (4 percent), nuclear power (1 percent), and other renewables (0.2 percent) account for relatively small amounts of China’s energy consumption mix. EIA envisages coal’s share of the energy mix will fall to 62 percent by 2035 due to anticipated increased efficiencies and China’s goal to reduce its carbon intensity or carbon emissions per unit of GDP by at least 40 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. China also recently announced plans to reduce its energy intensity levels (energy consumed per unit of GDP) by 31 percent from 2010 to 2020 and increase non-fossil fuel energy consumption to 15 percent of the energy mix in the same time period.
I expect the Chinese economy to diversify away from coal out of necessity. The Chinese government is considering a limit on coal production growth in order to stretch dwindling reserves. Wind and nuclear will become larger electric power sources. But Chinese CO2 emissions will continue to grow for years if they can find fossil fuels to burn.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2010 November 21 10:56 PM Pollution Green House Gases|