These ‘Missing Charts’ Reveal That Fossil Fuel Use Is Still Increasing

CO2 – August 5, 2017

GR: Good news is beginning to overwhelm the bad. Countries, cities, and U. S. states are accelerating their efforts to cut CO2 emissions. Unlike the mouse who just wants a little milk to go with our cookie, however, we need much much more. The problem is that emission cuts haven’t begun. If emissions had slowed, the line in the chart at left would have begun to relax. Perhaps it’s too soon to tell if it’s changing. The material below indicates that it’s not.

I’m repeating portions of Barry Saxifrage’s article here to point out what’s really happening. We need to call on everyone to keep their commitments and make the cuts in emissions. If we can’t, we will be forcing our children and grandchildren to live in the dark future depicted here.

Final thought: For all those Trump supporters who accepted the idea that we had to leave the Paris Accord because we couldn’t trust other nations to keep their promises: You were right. But being right won’t save us. The world needs a leader, not a loaner off in the corner somewhere.

There are more charts in the original article. They reveal more details about the growth in fossil fuel use.

“To address the twin threats of climate change and ocean acidification, nearly every nation has promised to reduce fossil fuel burning.

“But so far, humanity keeps burning ever more. Last year we did it again, burning an all-time record amount.

“That’s according to data compiled from the latest “BP Statistical Review of World Energy.” This annual report is one of the most widely used and referenced around the world. It’s big and comprehensive with fifty pages, thirty-three spreadsheets and forty charts. The report highlights most of the important trends in global energy. Most. But one critical trend was nowhere to be found….

“Conspicuously absent was the basic statistic on fossil fuels that I, as a climate reporter, was looking for: how much fuel is the world burning each year? Such a simple question, and the answer tells one of the most important stories in the world: are we finally turning the corner on our fossil fuel dependency?

“To find that missing story, I needed to download and combine multiple BP data sheets, do the math, and then build my own charts to reveal the trends. Here (drumroll, please) are the “missing charts” and what they have to say to us…

The missing charts: how much carbon-polluting fuel is humanity burning?

“I built three charts using the compiled BP fossil fuel data. This first chart shows the total energy consumed from burning fossil fuels each year.

“As you can see, the amount we burn continues to rise. Last year humanity set another fossil fuel energy record of 11.4 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (Gtoe). A decade ago we were at 10 Gtoe of energy. In 2000, we were at 8 Gtoe.

“There is certainly no sign in this chart of a turning point in our relationship to fossil fuels.

“My next chart uses the same BP data, but this time shows the annual increase from year to year:

“In 25 of the last 26 years, we burned more fossil fuels than the year before.

“The only year in the last quarter century with a decrease was 2009. That was caused by a sharp global recession. And within a year, that rare respite was wiped out by a massive surge that followed.

“Sadly, there is no sign of a turning point in this chart either.

“Take last year for example. The increase wasn’t particularly large, but it wasn’t particularly small either. In fact, it was right in line with the 1990s average. And the nineties certainly weren’t anyone’s idea of a retreat from burning fossil fuels. Nor were they a turning point in our fight against climate change or ocean acidification. The 1990s were business-as-usual.

“Finally, here’s a third view of the same BP data. This one illustrates fossil fuels’ share of all global energy. Turning point?

“What this chart says to me is that 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.

“Together, these three “missing” charts of BP’s fossil fuel data — ever rising amounts; increasing every year; and maintaining uncontested dominance — paint a sobering picture of humanity’s lackluster response to the growing threat.

“As California Governor Jerry Brown lamented in a recent New York Times interview: “No nation or state is doing what they should be doing. This is damn serious, and most people are taking it far too lightly than the reality of the threat. You can’t do too much to sound the alarm because so far the response is not adequate to the challenge.” –Barry Saxifrage (Continue reading: These ‘missing charts’ may change the way you think about fossil fuel addiction | National Observer).

Go to the article for several more revealing charts and explanations.

Are We Doomed or Can We Survive the Coming Crash?

GR: I read an interesting article by Richard Heinberg published on the Post Carbon Institute website on Thursday. The article offers two responses to the coming crash that improve our chances for surviving The solutions are quite clearly presented and I think you will agree with me that they make sense.

The crash will occur because our energy-dependent industrialized societies cannot sustain their current level of energy consumption. As Heinberg points out, it is possible to live a good life on a smaller energy budget. And this means that our civilization can survive a major reset without total failure. My only quibble with the article is that Heinberg seems to assume that carbon emissions have begun to fall. We just learned that this isn’t true. This is a problem we need to deal with now.

Heinberg explains that the reason the coming crash threatens our survival is that our society is too dependent on growth. If growth fails, we crash. Growth is going to fail because of climate change, energy resource limits, the increase in the food required by our growing population, soil erosion, deforestation, species extinctions, declining fresh water, ocean acidification, and our fragile economic system.

Heinberg’s crash responses control the crash so that civilization can recover at lower population and consumption levels. Clearly, there is no certainty that civilization will survive. Nevertheless, planning ahead for the post-crash recovery is a rational response that delivers a valid hope for our future.

“Among those who understand the systemic nature of our problems, the controlled crash option is the subject of what may be the most interesting and important conversation that’s taking place on the planet just now. But only informed people who have gotten over denial and self-delusion are part of it.”

Here’s a bit more of Heinberg’s article:

Are We Doomed? Let’s Have a Conversation.

“Are we doomed if we can’t maintain current and growing energy levels? And are we doomed anyway due to now-inevitable impacts of climate change?

“First, the good news. With regard to energy, we should keep in mind the fact that today’s Americans use roughly twice as much per capita as their great-grandparents did in 1925. While people in that era enjoyed less mobility and fewer options for entertainment and communication than we do today, they nevertheless managed to survive and even thrive. And we now have the ability to provide many services (such as lighting) far more efficiently, so it should be possible to reduce per-capita energy usage dramatically while still maintaining a lifestyle that would be considered more than satisfactory by members of previous generations and by people in many parts of the world today. And reducing energy usage would make a whole raft of problems—climate change, resource depletion, the challenge of transitioning to renewable energy sources—much easier to solve.

“The main good news with regard to climate change that I can point to (as I did in an essay posted in June) is that economically recoverable fossil fuel reserves are consistent only with lower-emissions climate change scenarios. As BP and other credible sources for coal, oil, and natural gas reserves figures show, and as more and more researchers are pointing out, the worst-case climate scenarios associated with “business as usual” levels of carbon emissions are in fact unrealistic.

“Now, the bad news. While we could live perfectly well with less energy, that’s not what the managers of our economy want. They want growth. Our entire economy is structured to require constant, compounded growth of GDP, and for all practical purposes raising the GDP means using more energy. While fringe economists and environmentalists have for years been proposing ways to back away from our growth addiction (for example, by using alternative economic indices such as Gross National Happiness), none of these proposals has been put into widespread effect. As things now stand, if growth falters the economy crashes.

“There’s bad climate news as well: even with current levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases, we’re seeing unacceptable and worsening impacts—raging fires, soaring heat levels, and melting icecaps. And there are hints that self-reinforcing feedbacks maybe kicking in: an example is the release of large amounts of methane from thawing tundra and oceanic hydrates, which could lead to a short-term but steep spike in warming. Also, no one is sure if current metrics of climate sensitivity (used to estimate the response of the global climate system to a given level of forcing) are accurate, or whether the climate is actually more sensitive than we have assumed. There’s some worrisome evidence the latter is case.

“But let’s step back a bit. If we’re interested in signs of impending global crisis, there’s no need to stop with just these two global challenges. The world is losing 25 billion tons of topsoil a year due to current industrial agricultural practices; if we don’t deal with that issue, civilization will still crash even if we do manage to ace our energy and climate test. Humanity is also over-using fresh water: ancient aquifers are depleting, while other water sources are being polluted. If we don’t deal with our water crisis, we still crash. Species are going extinct at a thousand times the pre-industrial rate; if we don’t deal with the biodiversity dilemma, we still crash. Then there are social and economic problems that could cause nations to crumble even if we manage to protect the environment; this threat category includes the menaces of over-reliance on debt and increasing economic inequality.

“If we attack each of these problems piecemeal with technological fixes (for example, with desalination technology to solve the water crisis or geo-engineering to stabilize the climate) we may still crash because our techno-fixes are likely to have unintended consequences, as all technological interventions do. Anyway, the likelihood of successfully identifying and deploying all the needed fixes in time is vanishingly small.” –Richard Heinberg (Continue reading: Are We Doomed? Let’s Have a Conversation. Post Carbon Institute).

Here’s an earlier discussion of things we need to do to prepare for the crash. 

Fossil Fuel Use is Rising Like There is NO Tomorrow–July 27, 2017

GR: Climate scientist Paul Beckwith is a reliable source for climate-change information. I’ve included the text of Dr. Beckwith’s introduction to his latest video. There’s not much I want to add. I will say that I watched the video twice and did some fact checking and have to say that unfortunately, Beckwith’s report is accurate. I don’t know how many times we have to discover that things are worse than we thought, but here we are again. [My transcription is a lightly edited version of Beckwith’s introduction.]

Image by Syracuse University iSchool.

Paul Beckwith– “If you think that 25+ years of global climate change policy meetings (IPCCs & COPs), and today’s much discussed growth in clean energy and efficiency are reducing global fossil fuel usage and thus greenhouse gas emissions then you are mistaken. The truth, illustrated by cold hard data, is brutal in its stark revelation of the lack of effort to prevent the coming traumatic events. You need to see the facts for yourself. Fossil fuel growth is backed by enormous government subsidies. Emissions are climbing like there is no tomorrow. No safe tomorrow, not for your grandkids, not for your kids, and not for you.”

Discovery: Aliens from Outer Space Working for Decades to Destroy Human Civilization–Bad

Image by Alien Policy

GR: Heads of major corporations, public utilities, and governments have worked for decades to hide the dangers of CO2 emissions, global warming, and climate change. The people involved have been well aware of the danger to civilization that they were supporting, but they went ahead because they were well paid to betray their race. Many elected representatives helped them. The post title represents the idea that no human would do what these people did; the traitors must be aliens in disguise.

The article below describes evidence that public utilities participated in the betrayal.

Like Exxon, Utilities Knew about Climate Change Risks Decades Ago | InsideClimate News

“A study issued Tuesday by an energy watchdog group offers important new insights into the fossil fuel industry’s extensive early understanding of climate change and the risks it poses.

“This time, it’s the electric utility sector that’s under the microscope.

“The detailed study, backed up by reams of archival documents, was issued by the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI), an environmental advocacy and research group that favors the use of clean energy over fossil fuels.

“Forty years ago, the documents show, industry officials told Congress that the looming problem of climate change might require the world to back away from coal-fired power—something that is only now beginning to happen.

“The research presents a distinct echo of an investigation of Exxon’s climate record published by InsideClimate News almost two years ago, and casts significant new light on the duration and depth of industry’s climate research—and how electric companies that use fossil fuels responded to the emerging science from the 1960’s onward.

“The 66-page report unearths research documents and testimony published but then largely forgotten decades before the climate crisis emerged as a key public issue.

“And in this episode of the nation’s climate history, once again, the same industry that foresaw the ultimate end of coal as a main fuel for power generation later supported actions to cast doubt on the science and to stave off policies to address the problem, funding groups that deny the scientific consensus and joining the main industry group that opposed participation in the first climate treaty. To this day, there are few federal limits on emissions of carbon dioxide by utilities, one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases.

“It’s a story with striking parallels to the investigations into ExxonMobil’s early knowledge of climate change and later efforts to deceive investors, policymakers and the public on the issue,” EPI said.

“Asked for comment, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, one of the trade associations scrutinized in the report, said only that the industry has made deep reductions in its emissions of carbon dioxide since 2005.” –John H. Cushman Jr. (Source: Like Exxon, Utilities Knew about Climate Change Risks Decades Ago | InsideClimate News).