Fossil fuels
Climate Change Daily Environment Repost

Can we quit fossil fuels?

Youth activism is refreshing. Becoming informed and passionate about issues that affect you is the hallmark of a maturing mind. Climate change activism is no exception, and I admire the dedication of youth activists like Greta Thunberg. However, I don’t entirely agree with her more recent assertions that time is running out to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. I believe time has already run out on that option. 

Projections made in 2019 estimated that CO2 emissions need to fall by 7.6% a year for the next decade to stay within the limits of the Paris Climate Agreement. But, this rate of decline is beyond anything achieved in the past several decades, and there is no indication that the nation signatories to the agreement have policies in place to meet this particular challenge. The world’s current fossil fuels trajectory does not limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius. It does not even come close. The Paris Climate Agreement looks like an overly optimistic promise.

Use of fossil fuels

In 2017, coal, oil, and natural gas accounted for about 87% of the total energy consumption of the world.  When these fossil fuels burned, they produced 36 gigatons of CO2. Current projections are that the world will emit 40 gigatons a year of CO2 by 2040. This number is over twice as much as the 2040 CO2 emissions targeted by the Paris Agreement. Despite its growth in recent years, renewable energy accounts for only about 4% of total global energy consumption. 

Energy Source% of Global Energy Consumption
Crude Oil35%
Coal28%
Natural Gas24%
Traditional Biofuels7%
Renewables4%
Nuclear2%

The numbers look more encouraging when we examine world electricity production by source. Fossil fuels account for 67% of the electricity produced, and a combination of nuclear and renewables make up the remaining 33%.

Carbon emissions are falling in some countries around the world, and that is good news. However, the world’s economies are inextricably tied to fossil fuels at this point in history. There will be no quitting fossil fuels in the next several decades. But, that does not mean the world should stop pursuing emission reductions.

The way forward

Falling emissions in some countries are a great starting point, but global carbon emissions are slated to rise over the next two decades. Reversing the world’s dependency on fossil fuels is a long, hard process. Germany recently announced that it would eliminate coal produced power, but not until 2038, and at the cost of $44 billion. 

The degree to which future carbon emissions can be controlled is dependent on government policy around the world. Hence their task ahead in balancing economic needs with environmental needs is not an enviable one. But the 197 nation signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement acknowledged that climate change poses a threat to the future and that concerted action affects how that future unfolds.

If you believe that a sustainable balance between human activity and the environment is a priority, then vote for leaders who choose to proactively manage climate change, as opposed to those who only view it as a nuisance to present-day profits. 


ArcheanWeb:

The politics of climate change and climate policy (Source: ArcheanWeb) – https://archeanweb.com/2020/02/10/the-politics-of-climate-change-and-climate-policy/ Also:

Science and Environmental Policy (Source: ArcheanWeb) – https://archeanweb.com/2020/01/24/science-and-environmental-policy/ Also:

Science versus an ideological approach: data versus magical thinking (Source: ArcheanWeb) – https://archeanweb.com/2020/03/06/science-versus-an-ideological-approach-data-versus-magical-thinking/ Also:

Sources:

How Hard Is It to Quit Coal? For Germany, 18 Years and $44 Billion (By Somini Sengupta and Melissa Eddy; New Your Times) – https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/16/climate/germany-coal-climate-change.html Also:

Fossil fuel energy consumption (% of total) (World Bank) – https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.USE.COMM.FO.ZS Also:

Countries’ fossil fuel production plans inconsistent with Paris Agreement (By  Chloé Farand; Climate Home News) – https://www.climatechangenews.com/2019/11/20/countries-fossil-fuel-production-plans-inconsistent-paris-agreement/ Also:

World’s Current Fossil Fuel Plans Will Shatter Paris Climate Limits, UN Warns (By NICHOLAS KUSNETZ; Inside Cliumate News) – https://insideclimatenews.org/news/20112019/fossil-fuel-production-climate-change-goals-subsidies-policies-un-report Also:

Energy (By Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser; Our World in Data) – https://ourworldindata.org/energy Also:

New Global CO2 Emissions Numbers Are In. They’re Not Good. (By Kelly Levin; World Resources Institute) – https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/12/new-global-co2-emissions-numbers-are-they-re-not-good Also:

Paris Climate Agreement: Everything You Need to Know (By Melissa Denchak; NRDC) – https://www.nrdc.org/stories/paris-climate-agreement-everything-you-need-know Also:

UN calls for push to cut greenhouse gas levels to avoid climate chaos (By Fiona Harvey; The Guardian) – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/26/united-nations-global-effort-cut-emissions-stop-climate-chaos-2030 Also:

Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (EPA) – https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions Also:

Feature Image: Coal Hill (By Bernhard Hanakam) (Modified) -This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coal_Hill_(114232955).jpeg

William House
William is an earth scientist and writer with an interest in providing the science "backstory" for breaking environmental, earth science, and climate change news.