The overlooked math of stubborn CO2 emissions

Apr 01, 2019, 8:01 AM EDT
(Source: Eino Sierpe/flickr)
(Source: Eino Sierpe/flickr)

Last week, the International Energy Agency put forth its report on the status of global energy and carbon emissions. A keen analysis of the report points to two key reasons behind our inability to put a lid on rising greenhouse gas emissions despite significant expansion of renewables.

One key factor in the upward movement of emissions is the growing global economy, which guzzled 2.3 percent higher energy last year, notes MIT Technology Review. Higher power demands were met partly by increasing solar, wind, and nuclear generation, but not without burning more coal and natural gas, which undoes the progress in capping emissions.

Digging deep into the stats one finds a chronic infirmity in the way the world is attempting to curb emissions. Between 2000 and 2018, wind and solar have grown by seven percent, while nuclear has dipped by the same margin.

So, essentially one carbon-free source of energy just filled the gap left by another similar source. The net progress on reversing emissions remains negative in that case, as coal and natural gas record miniscule drop and, in fact, modest increase, in some cases.