World CO2 emissions – 6/3/16

energy OECD

In spite of a decrease in the carbon intensity (CO2 per unit of energy) of the global energy supply, global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are projected to increase by one-third between 2012 and 2040 in the EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2016 (IEO2016) Reference case.

Many countries agreed to emissions reduction goals at the Paris Climate Talks with approaches to meet the goals including absolute reductions, reductions from business-as-usual cases, reductions in intensity, peaking targets, and specific policy actions. The variety of approaches combined with data limitations led the EIA to aggregates countries into 16 world regions, as well as OECD and non-OECD countries, rather than attempt individual nation modeling.

As shown below, the lion’s share of emissions has shifted away from the 34 current OECD member countries to non-OECD countries due to economic growth and increased energy use. The trend is expected to continue through 2040 as CO2 emissions from OECD members remain steady relative to non-members.

share energy co2

Global carbon intensity is projected to decrease by 0.4% annually, which is an improvement over the historical average of 0.3% between 1850 to 2008.

projected co2 intensity changes

The projected lowering of intensity is accounted for by a shift from high carbon intensity coal toward the use of renewable energy and natural gas.

The actual consumption of fossil fuels is projected increase albeit at a slower rate than the increase in consumption of renewable energy. In 2012, fossil fuels accounted for 84% of worldwide energy consumption.

fuel cons and co2 changes

It is important to remember that the EIA projections do not take into account technological changes that could be considered “revolutionary”. The introduction of electric vehicles alone is likely to make the forecasts given above obsolete since they will undoubtedly change the share of emissions. Incentives, competition, and rapid acceleration of timelines are likely to speed up what is already certain to be a disruptive technological change as falling costs and greater availability allow more consumers to choose less carbon intensive transportation options. As the world is today, higher individual incomes give OECD consumers the luxury of buying such vehicles sooner than non-OECD consumers, but by 2040 we are likely to see emissions from the transportation drop in all nations as electric vehicle use becomes more widespread. In the U.S., which produces about 17% of the world’s total CO2 emissions, transportation accounts for about a quarter of emissions so the effects of switching to less carbon intensive fuels for cars would be significant.

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