Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Scientific American reports that the world economy is growing without increases in CO2 emissions, which the author attributes to the rise of green energy. However, there are several issues with this claim.
World Economy Grows without Growth in Global Warming Pollution
Energy-sector emissions of CO2 remains flat for second year in a row
Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions held steady for the second year in a row while the economy grew, according to the International Energy Agency.
In a simple, two-column spreadsheet released yesterday, IEA showed that the world’s energy sector produced 32.14 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide in 2015, up slightly from 32.13 metric gigatons in 2014. Meanwhile, the global economy grew more than 3 percent.
Analysts credited the rise of renewables—clean energy made up more than 90 percent of new energy production in 2015—for keeping greenhouse gas emissions flat.
“The new figures confirm last year’s surprising but welcome news: we now have seen two straight years of greenhouse gas emissions decoupling from economic growth,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol in a press release. “Coming just a few months after the landmark COP21 agreement in Paris, this is yet another boost to the global fight against climate change.”
But some were skeptical of the carbon numbers and questioned IEA’s conclusion that economic growth and energy emissions aren’t linked anymore.
CONSERVATIVES, OTHERS QUESTION IEA DATA
“I think that’s just silly,” said Benjamin Zycher, the John G. Searle chair and an energy scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “The estimates of global greenhouse gas emissions really vary depending on which data set you are looking at.”
Global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are likely higher, Zycher said. Some nations have had flat emissions but for unique factors that are hard to replicate elsewhere, he said.
Frankly I’m a little skeptical of the model estimates of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. For example, we have seen recent enormous revisions to Chinese CO2 estimates, which begs the question of what other mistakes are waiting to be discovered. Whatever is happening to anthropogenic CO2, there doesn’t seem to be a noticeable change to the Mauna Loa CO2 trend, though who knows – perhaps it is too early to tell.