With an energy cost crisis now striking Europe and to a lesser extent the U.S., some cracks have begun to appear in the “net zero” utopian dreams being pursued almost universally by Western politicians. Nevertheless, at this writing, the rapid elimination of use of fossil fuels, supposedly to fight “climate change,” remains official government policy throughout Europe, at the federal level in the U.S., in most blue American states, and as well in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Here in the U.S., although President Biden has ordered some temporary measures like release of some oil from the nation’s strategic reserves, the full federal bureaucracy remains under orders from the top to force reduction in production and use of fossil fuels in every way it can devise. Meanwhile, states like New York and California have rapidly approaching legal deadlines for shuttering all fossil fuel power plants, prohibiting all automobiles other than electric ones, banning natural gas for heating and cooking, and otherwise quickly upending the last century of energy progress that has made our lives affordable and enjoyable.
We are supposed to believe that the official fossil fuel suppression policies will stop “climate change” and “save the planet” through the mechanism of rapid aggregate reductions of emissions of CO2 and other “greenhouse gases.” The rescue of the planet’s climate will make worthwhile our sacrifices in the form of higher energy prices, increased taxes to support subsidies to renewable energy, and restrictions on lifestyle.
But in fact, that narrative is all so much hogwash. In the West, twenty plus years and trillions of dollars of subsidies for “green energy” schemes have achieved only some marginal reductions in the share of final energy consumption derived from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, fossil fuel usage continues to soar. Leading the way is China, which has used the last two years of Covid distraction to have its emissions leapfrog to new records. In the overall picture, the Western obsession with decreasing emissions, despite enormous costs, does not have any impact that is even noticeable.
Two recently-issued reports paint the picture of a real world of ever-increasing fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions (although there was a minor Covid-induced downward blip in 2020). In March, the UN’s International Energy Agency (IEA) issued its annual Global Energy Review: CO2 Emissions in 2021. Also, the Global Warming Policy Foundation has released its Briefing Paper 58 titled “China’s Energy Dream,” written by Patricia Adams. (Full disclosure: I am the President of the American Friends of the GWPF.). Both reports underscore the complete absurdity of the ongoing green energy foolishness of the West.
Start with the IEA. While it must pain them greatly as the good UN functionaries they are, the IEA gives us the straight information on the ongoing rise of world CO2 emissions, despite the strenuous efforts of the Western nations to reverse the trend:
Global CO2 emissions from energy combustion and industrial processes rebounded in 2021 to reach their highest ever annual level. A 6% increase from 2020 pushed emissions to 36.3 gigatonnes (Gt). . . . Emissions increased by almost 2.1 Gt from 2020 levels. This puts 2021 above 2010 as the largest ever year-on-year increase in energy-related CO2 emissions in absolute terms. The rebound in 2021 more than reversed the pandemic-induced decline in emissions of 1.9 Gt experienced in 2020. CO2 emissions in 2021 rose to around 180 megatonnes (Mt) above the pre-pandemic level of 2019.
Here is the IEA’s chart of world emissions since 1900:
To summarize the chart, the Western obsession with “green energy” and “renewables” since about 2000 has gone along with a 50% increase in annual world CO2 emissions, from 24.3 Gt in 2000 to 36.3 Gt in 2021.
So what is driving the recent rapid increase in world CO2 emissions? According to the IEA, it’s mainly China:
The rebound of global CO2 emissions above pre-pandemic levels has largely been driven by China. . . . China’s CO2 emissions increased by 750 Mt over the two-year period between 2019 and 2021. China was the only major economy to experience economic growth in both 2020 and 2021. The emissions increase in China more than offset the aggregate decline in the rest of the world of 570 Mt between 2019 and 2021. . . . With rapid GDP growth and additional electrification of energy services, electricity demand in China grew by 10% in 2021, faster than economic growth at 8.4%. The increase in demand of almost 700 TWh was the largest ever experienced in China. With demand growth outstripping the increase of low emissions supply, coal was called on to fill 56% of the rise in electricity demand.
Ms. Adams’s report for the GWPF outlines the acceleration of China’s development of its fossil fuel resources, particularly electric power plants fired by coal:
Beijing is not about to abandon coal, its most secure form of energy. In 2020, it accounted for 57 per cent of China’s total energy consumption. Last year, its 38.4 gigawatts of new coal-fired power stations was more than three times the new capacity built in the rest of the world. Another 247 gigawatts is being planned or developed, with more to follow. Last year, Chinese provinces granted construction approval to 47 gigawatts of coal power projects, more than three times the capacity permitted in 2019.
Observing China’s ongoing development of its fossil fuel infrastructure, Ms. Adams remarks that China has no intention of weakening itself by adopting goals of CO2 emissions reductions:
The pursuit of CO2 reductions within China would serve neither the goal of preserving Communist rule nor becoming the world’s foremost superpower by 2049. To China’s leadership, it is a no-brainer. Carbon dioxide reductions only make sense for those it wishes to harm and supplant.
Every day I struggle to understand what places like California or New York or Germany or the UK — or even the entire U.S. — think they are accomplishing by restricting use of fossil fuels, while China, with population double that of the U.S. and Europe combined and a third of world emissions all by itself continues at full throttle to build more and more coal power plants. Maybe some reader can help me.