Okay, I am not going to go there. I am not going to write a blog on climate change, because I know some of you believe in it and some of you don’t. I think there are people more qualified than me to convince you … one way or another. However I read an article recently in The Atalantic magazine recently on where carbon pollution comes from, and I did want to share that with you.
The Australian government claims that Australia only produces 1.3 per cent of the world’s total carbon emissions, however if you take into account all the coal we export to other nations it is probably closer to 5 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions, but that’s not what I want to write about today. The Atalantic magazine article looks at where the world’s emissions come from and I thought that might be handy for you to know. You will probably be going to parties over Christmas and New Year so you can trot out these statistics, but remember not to cause fights between climate change believers and deniers or you won’t get invited to any more parties!
The world’s carbon pollution rose this year
According to The Atalantic magazine, the world’s carbon pollution from fossil fuels rose this year, reaching a record high. This is the third year in a row that carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have increased.
“Obviously it’s a bad thing,” Rob Jackston, an Earth-science professor at Stanford University who led the new research, told The Atalantic. “It’s just one more year where we churn along emitting record levels of carbon-dioxide pollution. The years and decades are slipping by.”
The record high has come even as renewable energy sources grow. The new estimate of 2019’s carbon emissions was conducted by the Global Carbon Project, and results have been published in three journals: Environmental Research Letters, Nature Climate Change, and Earth System Science Data.
Global Gross Domestic Product linked to carbon emissions
The rise in carbon emissions tracks world economic growth. Last year, for instance, carbon pollution rose 2.7 per cent while the world’s economy grew by 3 per cent.
This year, the global economy should grow by about 3 percent again, while carbon emissions will only increase by about 0.6 percent.
“The glimmer of hope is that the growth [in carbon emissions] is slower than in the last two years,” Dr Jackson said. “We need to be reducing emissions, though, not slowing growth.”
North America and Europe are using less coal but not China
North America and Europe are using less coal. In both the United States and Europe, coal use fell by at least 10 per cent this year. In the European Union, from 2013 to 2018, coal use fell by what now seems like a mere 5 percent a year. Meanwhile, in the United States, power companies have closed more than 500 coal-burning power plants since 2010. In the United States, the amount of power generated by coal has been halved since 2005.
Meanwhile coal use in China rose by about 1 per cent this year. China accounts for at least half of global coal production now. Coal two-thirds of China’s fossil-related carbon pollution. China’s emissions from other fuels are surging too. China’s per-person carbon emissions “are now as high or higher as the average country in Europe. China’s carbon pollution from oil, natural gas, and cement production increased by 6 percent this year. China’s increase is a big part of the global rise.
Renewables are growing
There has been an increase in renewables around the world but it’s still not growing fast enough. For example in America coal use plunged last year, but new wind and solar farms replaced only one-sixth of the lost power. The Americans are using more natural gas, but much of that comes from fracking (banned in NSW and Victoria). Queensland allows fracking.
Cheap natural gas is reducing emissions in the United States and Europe
A fracking boom in the United States and Australia has led to a surfeit of natural gas worldwide. Natural gas was the planet’s fastest-growing fossil fuel this year, generating about 7.7 billion tons of carbon pollution. Emissions from natural gas are also rising much faster than carbon emissions overall.
In 2016-17, Australia exported over 52 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG), more than double the 25 million tonnes exported two years earlier (2014-15). Natural gas from Australia is exported to many countries in the region, mainly Japan (the largest importer of Australian gas), China, and South Korea, but also to Taiwan, Malaysia, India and other places via spot markets in the region. In 2016-17, Australia exported over 52 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG), more than double the 25 million tonnes exported two years earlier (2014-15). Australia is the second largest LNG exporter in the world, second only to Qatar, and is on track to become the world's largest exporter as additional LNG plant capacity comes on stream.
LNG can be made from natural gas from either conventional sources or from coal seam gas (fracking). The gas is cooled to minus 161°C so that it becomes a liquid and in that form it is neither flammable nor explosive. This reduces its volume more than 600 times, making it easier to transport in specially-built tankers.
Europe has also turned to gas
In Europe, too, cheap natural gas (much of it from Russia) has shifted the market away from coal. Natural gas has been hailed as a ‘bridge’ fuel, a way to cut coal emissions while preparing for a cleaner energy system.
In developing countries, natural gas is providing new energy. It’s not displacing coal. Global energy consumption is rising, and most of the additional natural gas is meeting additional energy demand.
In India, natural gas rose about 2.5 per cent this year. In Japan, natural gas has replaced zero-carbon ‘nuclear capacity lost after the Fukushima accident’. Japan is the world’s largest importer of liquified natural gas.
Emissions keep rising
US carbon pollution grew last year and China cut subsidies for wind and solar power, pushing down global investment in renewables. The world’s carbon pollution from fossil fuels has increased three years straight.
Like I said, I’m not going to go there. You either do or don’t believe in climate change – but I thought you needed to know that the world is increasing (not decreasing) the amount of carbon emissions. And remember, don’t cause any arguments at Christmas or New Year’s Eve parties.
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Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.