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Monday, November 21, 2011

Worldwide Emissions of CO2: Background for the Durban Conference

Summary.  Energy use by developing countries of the world increased dramatically between 1972 and 2008.  During this period energy use by the developed countries increased at a far lower rate. 

The U. S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), in recent reports, project energy use by developing countries to continue to grow at very high rates through 2035, while use by the developed countries is projected to grow much more weakly, in the absence of new climate policies to limit energy use.  In an IEA scenario intended to keep atmospheric CO2 concentration below 450 parts per million, most CO2 emission is committed due to facilities already in service; only the few facilities to be placed in service are available to mitigate CO2 emission.  The IEA warns that effective policies to limit energy use and CO2 emission should be operating by 2017 in order to avoid emergency expenditures on a much larger scale for infrastructure at a later date.

At the time of this writing, about 1 week before the 2011 U. N. Durban conference on climate change, a news report states that major rich countries of the world have determined that a new climate agreement cannot be negotiated and implemented any sooner than about 2020.

Rich nations delay climate agreement.  On Nov. 20, 2011, the Guardian (UK) published a report (accessed Nov. 21, 2011) that the richest countries of the world have abandoned the goal of negotiating a climate change treaty that would have gone into effect in the present decade.   (This news item appeared just as this writer was completing his draft of this post.)  This news emerges just one week before the worldwide UNFCCC meeting is scheduled to begin in Durban, South Africa.  The report states that the UK, European Union, Japan, U.S. and other rich nations, with the acceptance of the UN, all agree to delay a treaty.  The new timeline envisions a treaty finalized by 2016, entering into force in 2020.  This delay represents a serious setback for mitigation efforts, having serious effects, or worse, on vulnerable regions and populations across the globe.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that the U. S. will require stringent, reciprocal terms for all emitters including China for any treaty taking effect after 2020.  One objective at the Durban conference will be to extend the Kyoto Protocol, which does not include the U. S. or China, to 2020.  Another goal is to proceed to implement (nonbinding) commitments made last year at the Cancun conference.

Introduction. Climate scientists the world over (working under the United Nations as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)) have reached a consensus that the long-term average of the temperature of the earth has increased since the start of the industrial revolution due to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. The IPCC further predicts that the earth’s average temperature will continue to increase in this century, leading to a variety of serious, potentially harmful, extreme weather and climate events.

Agreements reached at the 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Cancun, Mexico, drew from the IPCC.  The agreements acknowledged that “climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet, and thus [must] be urgently addressed by all [194] Parties [to the UNFCCC]”, and that the parties must strive to constrain the average global rise in temperature to 2ºC (3.6ºF) or less.

The previous post on this blog summarized the present status of actions taken since the conclusion of the Cancun conference, and outlined some outstanding policy issues.  In this post we expand on prior worldwide greenhouse gas emissions history, and examine expected future emissions in considerable detail.  This background establishes the major concerns affecting negotiations on the policies directed toward mitigation of the increased global average temperature.

Selected historical data from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The following graphic illustrates historical data for fuel-derived energy in Asia, excluding China but including India, from 1972 to 2008.  The overall growth over this period was about 340%.

Mtoe: million tonnes of oil equivalent.  From bottom to top the bands are: purple, coal and peat; blue, oil; green, gas; yellow, nuclear energy; navy blue, hydroelectric energy; orange, combined renewables and waste fill fuels; and red, combined geothermal, solar and wind energy.

The corresponding graphic for China is shown below.  Two features distinguish 

                         Source: IEA

this diagram from the one above for Asia excluding China.  First, the vertical scales show that China consumes much more energy than all the rest of Asia.  Second, there is a distinct upward break in China’s energy usage at about 2001, which originates entirely from coal.  China vastly expanded its coal-based electricity generating capacity over the last decade, with about 80% of its electricity generated from coal-fired plants.  In the 29 years from 1972 to 2001, energy supply increased about 180%, while in the short period from 2001 to 2008 the energy use grew steeply, by about 90%.

In contrast to the rapidly developing countries of Asia, the total energy supply for the developed countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD; includes, for example, the U. S., Europe, Japan and Australia) grew much more slowly, as seen in the graphic below. 

                                    Source: IEA;

In these countries the principal fuel is oil rather than coal.  The increase over the entire period shown is about 50%.  The energy supplied is much larger than the combined supply for all of Asia in the first two graphics.

Projected energy use and emission of CO2. 

The U. S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) issued its report, International Energy Outlook 2011  (designated IEO 2011 here), on Sept. 19, 2011.  The report presents historical worldwide energy usage data to 2008 and forecasts worldwide energy usage from 2008 through 2035.  The projections in the graphics below use the IEO 2011 Reference case scenario, which assumes that no new national or international policies govern energy use beyond those in place in 2011.

The first graphic illustrates historical (up to 2008) and projected (after 2008) total energy consumption worldwide, showing yearly consumption for OECD and non-OECD countries of the world.  Two factors are important in this and the next following graphic.  First, since most energy will continue to be derived from

Historical (1990 to 2008) and projected (2015-2035) annual worldwide consumption of energy, using the Reference scenario.  Btu, British thermal unit (the heat required to increase the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1ºF). Source: EIA;

fossil fuels during the projected period, the sharp rise in total worldwide energy use each year translates to a corresponding increase in annual emission of CO2.  Second, since both of these graphics present data for annual energy use, they likewise represent the corresponding annual rate of emission of CO2. Energy use by the non-OECD countries surpassed that of the OECD countries at about 2006.  The projected growth in energy use by the non-OECD (developing) countries, including China and India, is much higher, about 90% from 2008 to 2035, than the corresponding growth by the OECD (developed) countries, about 18%.

A complementary view of the same information is shown in the bar graph below.  As stated in the caption, China and India, which are included

Historical (1990 to 2008) and projected (2015-2035) annual worldwide energy consumption for: pale green, non-OECD (developing) countries of Asia; dark green, other non-OECD (developing) countries; blue, OECD (developed) countries, for the years shown.

in the pale green bars for non-OECD Asia, are responsible for fully half of the increase in the world’s energy use. Non-OECD Asian countries are projected to increase their energy use by about 110% between 2008 and 2035, in the Reference case.  The use of energy by the other non-OECD countries grows slightly less strongly over this time, and the OECD countries’ use of energy grows by only 10%.

EIA projects that in 2035 under the Reference Scenario, 80% of the world’s energy demand remains filled by fossil fuels.  Renewable sources of energy grow by 2.8% per year, fulfilling about 15% of energy demand by 2035.  Thus, as fuel use increases between 2008 and 2035, the corresponding annual rate of emission of the greenhouse gas CO2 likewise increases, under the Reference scenario.  This is broken down in the graphic below.

Annual emissions of CO2 historically up to 2008, and projected for decadic years between 2015 and 2035, in billions of metric tons of CO2 released. Non-OECD Asiatic countries (developing countries including China and India; pale green), non-Asiatic, non-OECD countries (other developing countries; dark green), and OECD countries (developed countries; blue).

As the caption shows, annual CO2 emissions for Asian developing countries increase by about 75% between 2008 and 2035.  The annual rates for the other two categories increase much more slowly.

In the Reference scenario annual emissions of CO2 are projected to grow drastically between 2008 and 2035.  Each year’s emissions are added to the atmospheric CO2 content already present.  Thus each succeeding year will see the addition of larger and larger amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere, worsening the increase in the long-term global average temperature we are already experiencing.

The International Energy Agency published its World Energy Outlook 2011 (WEO 2011) on Nov. 9, 2011.  It includes projections based on three scenarios.  The Current Policy Scenario (CPS) assumes no additional emissions policies implemented beyond those already in place in 2011.  This inaction is projected to lead to an increase in long-term global average temperature of 6ºC (10.8ºF) by 2035.  The intermediate New Policies Scenario includes policies intended to reduce emissions, but not by enough to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels. It is projected to lead to an increase in long-term global average temperature of 3.5ºC (6.3ºF).  The 450 Policy Scenario (450 PS) implements strict controls on new emissions that are intended to stabilize the atmospheric CO2 concentration at 450 parts per million; this is the level deemed adequate to keep the increase in long-term global average temperature within 2ºC (3.6ºF) above the pre-industrial level.

The IEA graphic below compares projections of Total Primary Energy Sources by global regions for two scenarios, CPS and 450 PS. It is seen that, compared to

Comparison of total world energy use under the CPS and the 450 PS. Historical data for 1990 and 2008, and projected results under the two policies for 2015, 2020, 2025 and 2035.  Blue: OECD+ (OECD countries plus others in the European Union; developed countries); Green: OME, other major economies (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russian Federation and Middle East; developing countries); Purple: OC, other countries(world excluding OECD+ and OME countries; developing countries); Orange: Intl. bunkers, international air and marine transportation.
Source: IEA, 2011 Key World Energy Statistics;

current policies, adopting the stringent 450 Policy Scenario results in an overall projected decrease of 22% in total energy needed by 2035.  The largest reduction in energy use is from the large economies of the developing world (OME), about 23%; followed by reductions in energy use by other developing countries (OC), about 17%, and reductions by OECD+ (developed countries) of about 13%.

The IEA warned in WEO 2011, according to its press release, that the world will enter “an insecure, inefficient and high-carbon energy system” unless it implements strong new policies to lower future emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.  The report points out that there is still time to act, but the time for implementing new policies is short.  Recent developments that signal  this urgency include the Fukushima nuclear accident which has deflated enthusiasm for nuclear energy, turmoil in the Middle East which creates instability in oil supplies and costs, and a strong increase in energy demand in 2010 which led to record high emissions of CO2.

Fatih Birol, IEA’s Chief Economist, points out that as time passes without significant action to mitigate emissions, the world is becoming “locked in” to a high-carbon energy infrastructure.  Up to the point of changing policy, all preexisting energy-producing and –consuming infrastructure commits the world to continuing its carbon-inefficient energy economy.  This is illustrated in the following graphic, considering that 2010 is the year of commitment.  

Lock-in of annual CO2 emissions from energy-producing and energy-consuming physical installations as of 2010, shown in the various SOLID colors.  Projected additional annual emissions from facilities newly installed after 2010, allowable under the 450 Policy Scenario, are shown in the HATCHED GREEN area at the top of the diagram.
Source: IEA, World Energy Outlook 2011;

This notion had been described earlier in a publication by Davis and coworkers in 2010, reported in an earlier post on this blog.  They pointed out that these physical installations have long service lifetimes, and that they continue to emit CO2 annually according to their originally designed (inefficient) operating specifications.

In the graphic above emissions from committed infrastructure are projected to decrease year by year as the various facilities age and are removed from service.  Significantly, the graphic illustrates the maneuvering leeway in annual CO2 emissions that are consistent with the 450 Policy Scenario, which is intended to ensure that the long-term average increase in global temperature is constrained to 2ºC (3.6ºF).  The IEA press release states

“Four-fifths of the total energy-related CO2 emissions permitted to 2035 in the 450 Scenario are already locked-in by existing capital stock…. Without further action by 2017, the energy-related infrastructure then in place would generate all the CO2 emissions allowed in the 450 Scenario up to 2035. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”

The leeway emissions are the only portions of the world’s energy economy available for manipulation to reduce overall CO2 emissions.  


Use of fossil fuels accelerated radically among developing nations such as China and India between 1972 and 2008, while use by developed nations, such as those in the OECD, rose much more slowly. 

In the absence of any change from current climate policies, the U. S. EIA envisions major increases in the use of fossil fuels among non-OECD nations, with more gradual increases among OECD countries, by 2035.  China and India are expected to be responsible for about half of the increase in energy use worldwide.  This results in major increases in emission of CO2.  Developing countries in Asia, including China and India, would account for 75% of the increased emission of CO2.

Generally similar conclusions are reached by the IEA.  Their 450 Policy Scenario, if implemented now, would lead to a decrease in annual energy usage by about 22% by 2035, referenced to the Current Policy Scenario.

The IEA warns that, in view of the large emissions burden imposed by existing energy infrastructure, a policy reflecting the objectives of the 450 Policy Scenario has to be agreed to by the world’s nations, and be implemented by 2017 in order to avoid much higher infrastructure expenditures in an emergency environment at a later time.

This writer would have concluded this post by urging the world’s nations to strive to finalize a climate agreement at the upcoming UNFCCC in Durban at the earliest opportunity.  However, the news report from the Guardian that many developed countries have delayed reaching such an agreement now precludes such a statement.  It is unfortunate that the nations of the world cannot come together to act in their own interests, and the interests of all peoples of the world, to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

© 2011 Henry Auer

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