Monday, December 31, 2018

Who's Burning the Fossil Fuels?

Here's an admirable case of bookkeeping: "Global Carbon Budget 2018" in the journal Earth System Science Data by Le Quéré and about 80 other co-authors. They crunch a lot of numbers to present the trends in where carbon is coming from and where carbon is going. It's open access, so I'm only going to highlight a few things I found interesting about their Figure 5 on emissions:

Some things I noticed:
  • It's hard to see much hope that global emissions are coming to a peak, though the trend is lower this decade.
  • The US is still the carbon hog of the world. (It's not even close.)
  • Coal is still the predominant source of carbon, and its peak may be reversing.
  • China's per capita emissions seem to be flat throughout much of the 2010s. (Can that be right??)
  • About 10% of China's emissions are for products consumed in other countries.
  • Current per capita emissions for the globe is about 1.2 t/yr -- so the US emits as if it were an average country of 900 million people.
  • US per capita emissions peaked around 1975, and EU28's (the full European Union) around 1980. But US emissions rose again and almost reached a new peak around 2000, whereas the EU's have been on a steady decline since peaking. The decline for both is about 30%. Some fossil fuel advocates snicker than the US has decreased its carbon emissions more than any other country so we deserve a gold star on our forehead, but that's only because we started out with much higher emissions in the first place. Percentage wise it's the same between the US and EU. And it's a dumb argument anyway because we still emit far more per capita than anyone else, as if (they seem to think) Americans have some god-given right to do so.
  • It would be interesting to see the numbers for EU15. (Here's an explainer on the different EU subsets (at the moment!))
  • per capita emissions for the globe have stayed remarkably close to flat for 60 years. It's almost as if the increases from China and India have been offset by the US and EU and everyone else has stayed flat/impoverished.

See anything else?


Anonymous said...

Yeah, you spelled the word "who's" wrong.

David in Cal said...

Sadly, what I see is no hope of ending the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere. I don't know how low emissions would have to be so that the % of atmospheric CO2 would start to decline. Atmospheric CO2 was increasing in the 1970's, so I would guess that in order for atmospheric CO2 to decrease, the level of emissions would have to be less than 4 GtC/Yr. The kinds of improvements sought in various international conferences are not going to get us there.