If there is one idea that defines progressive orthodoxy today more than any other, it is the idea that the planet can and must be saved from the climate "crisis" by means of drastic cuts to human carbon dioxide emissions. Or, at least, by drastic cuts to your carbon dioxide emissions. Surely you will recall President Barack Obama saying (in 2014) that "no challenge poses a greater threat to our children, our planet, and future generations than climate change." To address the dire threat, Obama then led the nation into the Paris Climate Agreement, pledging to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by some 26-28% below 1990 levels by 2025. And that was just the downpayment.
President Trump of course is now in the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. But no other country (of the 172 that have ratified the Paris Agreement) has announced a similar intention to withdraw. And here in the U.S., our progressive political leaders, where they have power, march forward with the official plan. In New York, our Governor Andrew Cuomo has pledged to reduce "greenhouse gas" emissions by 30% by 2030, and by 80% by 2050. Here is Cuomo making the pledge in 2015, during the run-up to the Paris Agreement:
“Climate change is an issue of society’s sustainability – and to deny that climate change is real is to deny reason,” Governor Cuomo said. “Today, New York is stepping up. We are demonstrating the leadership and focus that this issue demands. We are joining together and committing ourselves to tackling climate change and showing the nation what is possible. Now it is up to world leaders to follow suit.”
Cuomo was joined in his announcement by none other than Al Gore:
"The leadership shown by Governor Cuomo and New York State to make bold emissions reductions commitments is vital to solving the climate crisis,” said Former Vice President Al Gore.
Not to be outdone, Governor Brown of California in the same year, by means of an Executive Order, issued even more ambitious emissions reduction targets: 40% by 2030, followed by 80% by 2050. According to the prelude to that Executive Order, Brown has also launched his own foreign policy on the subject, by "sign[ing] accords to fight climate change" with leaders from countries including Mexico, China, Peru, Canada and Israel.
And don't forget the 388 (and counting) mayors of U.S. cities and towns who have "commit[ted] to adopt, honor and uphold the Paris Climate Agreement goals."
So surely then, world greenhouse gas emissions must have turned onto a steep downward trajectory? Don't be ridiculous. In fact the sacrifices being asked from the citizens of some of the U.S. states are being offset by a factor of five or ten or more by increasing emissions from elsewhere in the world. But, you ask, didn't those countries sign the Paris Agreement? Of course they did! It's just that their signatures did not come with any promises to cut emissions.
The facts of current and future world energy consumption are laid out in a little-heralded Report from the U.S. Energy Information Agency that came out back in September. Larry Hamlin at Watts Up With That calls attention to the Report in a post that appeared Saturday December 30.
Here's the bottom line: Despite widely-trumpeted plans in certain places to achieve dramatic reductions in fossil fuel usage, in reality overall fossil fuel consumption is set to increase substantially over the next several decades. Any reductions in emissions in places like California or New York or some European countries will be swamped by dramatically increasing emissions from the developing world, particularly China, India and Africa. The EIA breaks down the numbers by type of fossil fuel -- oil, natural gas, and coal. First oil:
In the Reference [most likely] case, world consumption of liquid fuels rises from 95 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2015 to 113 million b/d in 2040. Non-OECD nations account for most of the increase, with demand rising by 1.3%/year compared with a slight decrease in the OECD.
I like that part about all the efforts of certain states and countries to achieve 80% reductions leading to a "slight decrease" in usage in the OECD as a whole. Meanwhile the non-OECD (developing) world increases its consumption by about 40%. Whatever reductions occur in some places are barely enough to register in the overall picture. Next, natural gas:
Natural gas consumption grows in both the OECD and non-OECD from 2015 to 2040, but growth is greatest in non-OECD countries which have expanding industrial sectors and electricity demand. Consumption in non-OECD countries is projected to grow an average of 1.9%/year from 2015 to 2040 in contrast to 0.9%/year in OECD countries.
The increases in natural gas consumption over 25 years are so large that EIA won't even put the totals into words. But a chart on page 49 conveys the bad news: annual world natural gas consumption goes from about 130 quadrillion Btus in 2015 to about 185 quadrillion Btus in 2040 -- an increase of over 43%. Even the OECD countries see a projected consumption increase of about 25%.
And finally, how about coal?
Worldwide coal consumption remains roughly the same between 2015 and 2040 (about 160 quadrillion Btu), with decreasing consumption in China and the United States offsetting growth in India. China remains the largest single consumer of coal in 2040 (about 73 quadrillion Btu), despite a steady decline in the country’s consumption over time. India’s coal consumption continues to grow by an average 2.6%/year from 2015 to 2040, with the country surpassing the United States as the second-largest coal consumer before 2020.
So, what then about the so-called "renewables," like wind and solar? Aren't they supposed to rise up and overtake the evil fossil fuels during this time period? The EIA Report does project substantial increases in production and consumption of energy from the "renewables" between now and 2040. But somehow, none of it is nearly enough to replace any of the existing energy obtained from the fossil fuels, let alone to avoid further increases in fossil fuel usage.
So as your electricity bill, and mine, triple over the next several years as we attempt to replace fossil fuels with production from wind and solar, should we ask ourselves: Is this anything other than an exercise in total futility?