We know we are in trouble when a major fossil fuel corporation tells us we have grounds to be concerned. While 2018 saw many promises of the climate emergency being taken seriously, unfortunately it turns out these were just empty words. Every year BP produces one of the most comprehensive reports on worldwide energy consumption and their 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy came out recently detailing our failings to once again take our climate emergency seriously.
Quite unfortunately we see that even after all the talk and all of the policy pledges the only thing we achieved in 2018 was to increase our energy consumption rate of 2.9%, the highest rate of increase since 2010. While this should be proof that all the pledges we have heard so far are, for the moment, empty of real meaningful actions, let us try to understand what happened.
It would be easy to point the finger at China, USA and India which were responsible for 66% of that increase but we would simply be pointing the finger back at ourselves since China and the USA are the two largest manufacturers of the world and account for 40% of manufacturing output: If consumers want it, they produce it. Interestingly, this highest increase in consumption came about during tepid GDP growth and an increase in energy prices. The best hypothesis of what happened is well summarized by Mr. Dudley:
BP’s economics team estimate that much of the rise in energy growth last year can be traced back to weather-related effects, as families and businesses increased their demand for cooling and heating in response to an unusually large number of hot and cold days.
This should be of great concern. As we have seen in our methane article, if climate change engenders more climate change in a vicious cycle this is highly problematic not only with regards to human behavior but also for microbial and various other systems. These are what are referred to as “climate tipping points”. They are not accounted for, not only because they are very difficult to predict and model, but also because we have no margin for errors in our estimates and modeling, even if we could accurately predict climate tipping points.
We cannot put the lives of everything on earth at risk with empty words devoid of any meaningful actions. When we are being lectured about our inactions by the CEO of a major oil corporation we know we have failed in major ways. Since we are biased against the suffering of all animals, including human animals, we will let BP’s CEO continue the lecture and explain the concern in his own words:
My guess is that when our successors look back at Statistical Reviews from around this period, they will observe a world in which there was growing societal awareness and demands for urgent action on climate change, but where the actual energy data continued to move stubbornly in the wrong direction.
A growing mismatch between hopes and reality. In that context, I fear – or perhaps hope – that 2018 will represent the year in which this mismatch peaked.
There are many people better qualified than I to make judgements on this. But even if these weather effects are short lived, such that the growth in energy demand and carbon emissions slow over the next few years, the recent trends still feel very distant from the types of transition paths consistent with meeting the Paris climate goals. Hopes and reality. So, in that sense, there are grounds for us to be worried.
We could not agree more with BP's CEO! Take some time to reflect on the fact that these words come from the CEO of one of the largest fossil fuel corporations. Let this highlight the fact that with a climate emergency there are no winners and no losers: We either all win together or we all lose together.
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