The Larson C ice shelf infrared (black cold, white hot) photo taken between July 14 and July 21 taken by the Landsat-8 satellite. (Climate Central) – A climate scientist’s center fold. Just click the above link and you’ll see what I mean.
Barry Saxifrage over at the National Observer did the collapse community a big solid by creating these charts to help us understand why fossil fuel emissions remain on an upwards trajectory. Here is the most important chart of fossil emissions based on millions of tons of oil equivalents.
Emissions have risen 60% since humanity started tackling emissions in 1989. In the last several years, emissions have risen about 2.64% per year, increasing to 3% in the last two. This chart below shows how fast emissions are increasing with each passing decade.
The next chart shows the growth rate of increasing demand. In 25 of the last 26 years, we burned more fossil fuels than the year before, with only The Great Recession showing less demand than the previous.
Fossil fuels continue to absolutely dominate global energy consumption. Even a quarter century of global efforts to transition to safer energy sources was unable to make any meaningful dent in the dominance of fossil fuels. After 25 years, the fossil fuel share of total world energy demand has declined a mere 2%. That’s like 1% per decade.
If you read green energy liberal media sites, you would be under the impression that we’ve turned the corner on fossil fuel use in the last 5 years, while nothing could be further from the truth.
But what about coal? Greenies wax enthusiastically optimistic when they talk about the death of coal, but can we trust the data on coal?
Here are 5 reasons to be skeptical of a coal downturn:
Data: Our atmosphere shows no sign of it.
History: China has huge under-reporting problems.
Human nature: Growing pressure to under-report and no way to catch it.
Money: New coal plant construction is booming worldwide.
China is investing heavily in coal gasification all over Asia.
Let’s look at each in turn.
Reason #1: Our atmosphere shows no sign of it
BP says that the reported decline in coal burning means that global CO2 emissions have stopped rising. Instead, CO2 levels in the air have been surging upwards at record-breaking rates. Although non-anthro feedback emissions are overtaking human emissions, I find no comfort in that.
Reason #2: China’s problem with under-reporting emissions
China burns half the world’s coal. And China also struggles to accurately measure and report its emissions.
How inaccurate are China’s numbers?
The New York Times recently reported that China’s “pollution and energy data can be unreliable or outright fake.”
Widespread accounting problems have become a major issue threatening the roll out of China’s new national carbon market. In other words, they don’t trust their energy accounting enough to rely on it themselves.
An eye-watering example of one of China’s past accounting errors happened just a few years ago. The government revised its 2013 coal estimates upwards by 600 million tonnes per year. That revision is double the entire reported global coal decline from the last three years, as seen in red on the chart below.
Oh, and before that 2013 revision, China had another gigantic one.
A decade earlier, another big error in China’s coal reporting “created an erroneous impression that China had succeeded in generating economic growth without increasing emissions.” Instead, their coal data was under-reported.
So, are China’s more recent coal estimates also too low? Unfortunately it will be a few more years before we find out because China only reports revisions every five years.
China is certainly not the only nation with inaccurate coal numbers. India and others struggle with this too. Partly it is caused by developing nations’ lack of resources. Partly it is caused by the growing pressure to under-report the numbers.
Reason #3: Growing pressure to under-report and no way to catch it
As the impacts of climate change and air pollution continue to grow worse, pressure is growing on foot-dragging governments and industries to fake their numbers so they appear better than they really are.
Caixin reports on another recent example from China: “Recent Environmental Ministry inspections found that one-third of manufacturers in northern China had tampered with emissions data to avoid heavy penalties.” There is now a “cottage industry” to help fake the numbers. That cheating also took place in a regulated industry that required verification tests.
Scientific Americanwarns that the “world needs a way to verify that nations have made their promised carbon cuts … The current inability to verify that a nation has made its promised carbon cuts remains a long-standing loophole.
The New York Timesreported on verification in China: “Like some other nations, China, the world’s biggest polluter, has refused to accept international monitoring of its emissions.
Reason #4: The global boom in new coal plants
Investors pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into increasing global coal power capacity by 43% according to the coal-tracking database compiled by the German group, urgewald.
A recent article in The New York Times makes for sobering reading and leaves little doubt about the scale and breadth of the ongoing coal expansion. This global coal boom is being led by Chinese companies, but they aren’t limiting their efforts to China. Nations with no history of coal burning are about to join the club for the first time.
A new joint report led by Oil Change International, “Talk is Cheap: How G20 Governments Are Financing Climate Disaster,” adds it all up. “Of all public finance for energy provided by G20 institutions and the multilateral development banks between 2013 and 2015…58% supported fossil fuel production.”
The above chart shows the top four nations in public financing of fossil fuels between 2013 and 2015. Every one of them poured far more money into fossil fuels than into all other energy sources combined.
And just look at China. A whopping 90% of government energy spending went to fossil fuels. The “Talk is Cheap” report says China spent more on coal than on all non-fossil energy sources combined.
Reason #5: The Clean Coal Boom
Since burning coal is bad, people have learned to turn coal into chemicals, fertilizers and liquified or natural gas. There’s nothing natural about it. So, burning coal doesn’t count if you turn it into something else first? The magic is in getting carbon credits for doing so.
Paul Beckwith Videos – Walking a tightrope of bloom and gloom.
Paul Beckwith talks about Drawdown.org in his latest video, a website that details 15 top things we can do to lower emissions. The #1 thing is refrigeration. 90% of fridge gases are released during a fridge’s end of life-cycle. Two other top ones are, stop wasting food, and go vegan. Can even you imagine that happening? Some of these ideas are heavily promoted in the media, while others are ignored. We have to reduce emissions or die. It’s like when Naomi Klein flies around promoting her book, she thinks her precious words are worth the emissions, when believe me, nothing could be further from the truth.
Don’t bother to watch the Paul Beckwith comedy, unless you like having knives thrown in your eyes. I was hoping he would provide a critical conclusion on how we’re not living up to our responsibilities. Responsibility comes from the word, respond, which means you do something about a situation because it’s the right thing to do. We are acting as if emissions reductions are like items on a menu we get to pick and choose. “I’ll take 3 wind turbines, 6 solar panels and 3 electric cars please. I’ll skip the carbon charring.”
McDonald’s could sell fake soy burgers indistinguishable from the real thing. It would be the right thing to do because they’re only like 50% meat now. I promise you, they won’t. The Drawdown.org list doesn’t even mention nuclear power, like as if they had a choice, because it doesn’t jive with the can-do tone of its feel-good message. What about the wars? Wouldn’t that drawdown emissions? Just from pollution alone, the Pentagon is the biggest killer in the world. Why is world peace not on the list?
So let’s say the real list goes up to 20. We’re not even doing half the list as is, let alone all of the all-inclusive one. I’m sick of these false-hope, pick-and-choose solution narratives.
China is eating up the world. They are building a giant road, rail and pipeline system across the whole other side of our planet. They build whole cities by mistake for fuck sakes. Yet, we praise them for making 80% of the world’s solar panels, which is stupid because they pretty well make 80% of everything, including hydro dams, coal gasification plants and nuclear power stations.
I don’t blame Paul for backtracking into positive territory after him blasting climate scientists recently, but please God, save me from another one. It’s like going to a strip cub on Sunday morning.