Summary: Journalists live by the rule “if it bleeds, it leads”, sound business advice which buries important good news. Such as the new data from the EIA about US CO2 emissions. It’s another small step away from CAGW, especially the coal-driven RCP8.5 climate nightmare scenario. It’s one of many such during the past few years — with the potential for even better news in the future.
“This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.”
— Speech by Churchill on 10 November 1942 after a key defeat of the Africa Corps by Britain.
“Adjusted for inflation, the economy in 2015 was 15% larger than it was in 2005, but the U.S. energy intensities and carbon intensities have both declined. On a per-dollar of gross domestic product (GDP) basis, in 2015, the United States used 15% less energy per unit of GDP and produced 23% fewer energy-related CO2 emissions per unit of GDP, compared with the energy and emissions per dollar of GDP in 2005.”
The big driver of this change is the shift from coal to natural gas (per the EIA). Coal use peaked in 2008, and declined 32% by 2015 (per the EIA), resulting from the collapse in natural gas prices (fracking!) — predating any effects from the Clean Power Plan.
Wind and solar are also gaining, up 13% and almost 200% respectively from 2012 to 2015 — wind from a small base, and solar from an insignificant base — but both with large potential for the future, along with other technologies still in the nation’s laboratories. More about those tomorrow.
It’s happening around the world, not just in the US
“In 2012, coal provided 40% of the world’s total net electricity generation. By 2040, coal, natural gas, and renewable energy sources provide roughly equal shares (28-29%) of world generation.”
— From the EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2016.
Data from the EIA shows that world coal consumption fell by 98 million short tons (1.2%) in 2012 (the most recent data) following peaking in many nations, both poor and rich. Europe peaked in 2007. Africa peaked in 2008 and Asia in 2011 (or later, data is uncertain). See details about the good news.
- Good news! Coal bankruptcies point to a better future for our climate.
- Good news from China about climate change!
- Britain joins the shift from coal, taking us away from the climate nightmare.
The lost jobs of the miners are the cost of a vial economy — free markets in action, creative destruction plus government action to protect the environmental commons. Like the lost jobs in farming and manufacturing during our history. A wealthy society like ours can provide for them, better than we have for those trampled by changes during past generations.
Before we get too excited about the future…
…remember the past. CO2 levels continue to grow at an accelerating rate, decade by decade. Up 1.8% in the 1950s, up 2.8% in the 1960s, up 4.1% in the 1970s, up 4.6% in the 1980s, up 4.2% in the 1990s, and up 5.6% in the first decade of the new century. See the bad news in this graph of CO2 levels measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory (from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center).
We will choose in which forecasts of the future we want to live
The shift from coal to renewables and natural gas are the beginnings of good trends, but their effects will be seen only in future decades. The CO2 emission levels forecast in the RCP’s do not differ significantly until after 2030. The four shown in the IPCC’s AR5 have a range of 2% between best and worst by 2020, 5% by 2030, 18% by 2050, and 55% by 2100.
This graph from the RCP Database shows forecasts for the two most severe RCPs. The line of actual CO2 concentrations that we’ll draw on that graph depends on decisions we make as individuals, business people, and citizens.
Also, the RCP’s are representative scenarios showing paths to various levels of climate forcings. Even if the current news continues and CO2 levels rise less than expected, there are other paths to severe warming. Other things might go wrong, such as large releases of methane from the northern tundra or ocean floors.
On the other hand, the dire headlines about climate catastrophes are almost all based on RCP8.5, with its unlikely assumptions of slow tech progress, extremely rapid population growth, and a late 21st century powered by coal (like the late 19thC). All of those assumptions are becoming less likely, year by year.
The bottom line is that we should not believe neither the doomsters of the Left (the End is Nigh, inevitably) nor the Right (we can do nothing). We have the tools to build a prosperous clean world. It will not happen by itself. It will not be easy. But it is possible.
For More Information
Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see The keys to understanding climate change, My posts about climate change, and especially these about the rumored coal-driven climate apocalypse…
- Is our certain fate a coal-burning climate apocalypse? No!
- Manufacturing climate nightmares: misusing science to create horrific predictions.