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How the World is Addressing its Spiralling Carbon Emissions Problem

A study conducted by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reveals the global energy use could potentially increase up to 50% between 2018 to 2050. The data also shows that developing Asian nations will be using up much energy due to increasing demand.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) also released data regarding carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which reached record levels to come at a 1.7% increase in 2018. It was aggravated by a rise in energy consumption worldwide (23%) to double the average growth rate since 2010 nearly.

These figures and more begs discussions from economically outstanding nations and members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to curb the issues related to the world’s carbon emissions.

IEA: record-high carbon emissions

The 1.7% increase in CO2 emissions globally last 2018 comprises 33 gigatonnes (Gt), which is mostly caused by coal utilisation in power generation (>10Gt). Coal accounts for one-third of the overall increase, which can be attributed to the recently established coal-fueled plants in Asia.

The rise in carbon emissions is chalked up to an increase in the world’s power consumption. Electricity contributes a 20% share in the final energy use.

Nearly a fifth of the growing global energy demand arises from cooling and heating since average temperatures during winter and summer reach record-breaking levels in some regions across the globe.

The US, India, and China accounted for almost 70% of energy demand in the world, and the US takes over other nations in gas and oil demand.

In 2018, natural gas surpassed other fuel choices to contribute to the world’s energy demand by 45%. All fuel demands have increased, and fossil fuels contributed to 70% of the demand growth for two consecutive years.

Reducing emissions

The trend in renewable energy has helped avoid 215Mt of CO2 emissions, mainly due to advocating green energy in the industry. According to the IEA, Europe and China contribute to two-thirds of savings from renewable energy.

Nuclear power stations also increased in power generation, which led to reduced carbon emissions by almost 60Mt.

If low carbon sources weren’t promoted in 2018, the emission would have grown to double the amount today based on the report. Methods involving energy efficiency and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) stations in 2018 also help curb carbon emissions by a significant amount.

However, global carbon emissions are still on the rise, which entails prompt action such as creating clean energy solutions and promoting innovation and investments to build facilities to cut emissions.

Swelling global energy demand

Energy consumption around the world sees a 50% increase that started in 2018 and potentially until 2050 due to economy-driven demand in developing countries, particularly those in Asia.

Throughout projection, the industrial sector is expected to take up half of the energy consumption. This sector includes manufacturing, mining, refining, construction and agriculture. It is forecasted to increase by 30% due to a rise in the use of goods. By 2050, the growth is anticipated to gain about 315-quadrillion British thermal units or Btu.

The Energy Outlook 2019 report published by the EIA shows that transportation consumption will reach a 40% increase due to non-OECD nations’ energy use on the sector to be almost 80% of the demand by 2050.

The commercial and residential building sector will rise to 65% to reach 139 quadrillion Btu, likely aggravated by urbanisation. In manufacturing, South Asia, specifically India, and Africa are looking to shift infrastructure investments and trade patterns due to an energy consumption growth in these regions. It is said the demand for petroleum and natural gas will surpass supply in Asia.

The report shows renewable energy to have the fastest growth as an energy source. Energy generation will reach up to 79% by 2050, driven by the increase in energy consumption.

Tackling inequality in global energy

Over 800 million people in the world do not have electricity, and 2 billion worldwide lack clean cooking facilities, which then forces them to look for toxic alternative sources for cooking fuel such as animal waste.

While the US and Europe are doing their part to control emissions, energy demand and consumption keep going up in emerging economies, which adds to the challenge of global warming.

Renowned economist Kenneth Rogoff wrote a piece for The Guardian, suggesting an in-depth discussion of the inequality in global energy.

Rogoff cites proposals for a global CO2 emissions tax, which could dissuade nations from performing activities that promote global warming. Equating the cost of emissions worldwide will unify all measures previous done to curb climate change.

Another effective yet expensive way to dispel carbon emissions is for less-developed and emerging nations to buy into the reduction of emissions. For instance, coal plants in Asia are as young as 12 years old, and phasing them out will take a lot of outside help.

Rogoff further suggests the establishment of the World Carbon Bank to tackle transition issues and grant assistance to less prosperous economies.