Are Greenhouse Gases Peaking?
December 9, 2015
Industrial emissions of greenhouse gases rose only slightly in 2014 and appear to be on track to decline in 2015, according to new data that raise the possibility that a period of rapid global emissions growth may be coming to an end.
The decline of 0.6 percent projected for this year, should it come to pass, would be highly unusual at a time when the global economy is growing. The projection contrasts sharply with emissions growth that averaged 2.4 percent a year over the last decade, and sometimes topped 3 percent.
The new figures were released at the climate conference here by the Global Carbon Project, a collaboration that studies emissions, and published simultaneously in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Past emissions declines have usually been linked to economic distress, such as the global financial panic of 2009 and the Russian economic meltdown of the late 1990s.
The new figures suggest that there is a chance that global emissions have already peaked and may be starting a long-term decline, experts said Monday, which would be an important inflection point for the international effort to limit the risks of global warming.
The single biggest factor appears to be a marked reduction in China’s use of coal to make electricity. But other countries, from North America to Europe, also emitted less carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning as governments and consumers shifted to cleaner fuels and more fuel-efficient vehicles, according to a report published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.
The authors cautioned that this year’s “pause” is not likely to last, as developing economies in India and elsewhere around the world are projected to increase emissions from coal and oil in the coming decades. But those higher emissions are beginning to be offset elsewhere as more people turn to the sun and wind to provide electricity, the analysis said, suggesting that a “peak” in the world’s output of greenhouse gases could be achieved in the foreseeable future.
A favorite hobby horse of climate deniers is the phony “humanitarian” argument – “Exxon cares so much about the poor starving people of Africa, we won’t rest till they all have the GE Kitchen of Tomorrow”.
The argument kind of falls down – if making way for greater exploitation of fossil fuels by giant corporations was the key to progress, Nigeria and Libya would be shining beacons of democracy and prosperity.
Maybe that’s why Africa seems to be diverting from the idea.
An Africa-wide mega-scale initiative backed by all African heads of state should see the continent greatly increase its renewable energy over the next 15 years.
The African Renewable Energy Initiative (Arei) plans to develop at least 10 GW of new renewable energy generation capacity by 2020, and at least 300 GW by 2030, potentially making the continent the cleanest in the world.
The plan to accelerate solar, hydro, wind and geothermal energy could see Africa leapfrogging other continents by developing thousands of small-scale “virtual power stations” that distribute electricity via mini-grids and would not require transmission lines, which involve a loss of up to a quarter of power during the process.
The initiative, which is tentatively estimated to cost at least $500bn over 20 years, is billed as “by Africa, for Africa”, and is intended to reduce Africa’s present reliance on coal. As well as reducing emissions, it will help at least 600 million people switch from lighting homes and cooking with diesel, kerosene and wood, and reduce air pollution in homes and cities.
Solar is expected to play a leading role. “We are ready to engage in massive solar and wind energy production to attain 100% electricity reach for our people,” said Judi Wakhungu, Kenya’s environment cabinet secretary.
Speaking at the launch of the initiative at the COP 21 talks in Paris, the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, said the continent currently loses 4% of its GDP due to a lack of clean energy.
“Africa is the continent suffering the most from the scorching heat from rising temperatures, and droughts have become more frequent and with greater intensity than ever before. Africa needs more money for adaptation.
“The continent has been short-changed by climate change. But we must ensure that it is not short-changed by climate finance. AfDB will triple its climate finance to $5bn a year by 2020,” he said.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where the number of people without access to electricity is set to rise. By 2030, Africa’s share of the world’s population without electricity will increase from less than half today to more than two-thirds.
Detailed plans for each country will be worked out over the next five years, but the AfDB and other financial groups, including the World Bank, have pledged an initial $5bn.
News of the initiative comes as a coalition of 12 countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia and Malawi set themselves a goal to replant 100m hectares (247m acres) of forest across the continent in the next 15 years.