Carbon emissions climbed by 2% in 2018, faster than any year since 2011, because the demand for energy easily outstripped the rapid rollout of renewable energy. That level of growth in emissions represents the carbon equivalent of driving an extra 400m combustion engine cars onto the world’s roads, said Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist.
“At a time when society is increasingly concerned about climate change and the need for action, energy demand and emissions are growing at their fastest rate for years,” Dale said.
Temperature fluctuations are increasing the world’s use of fossil fuels, in spite of efforts to tackle the climate crisis.
The recorded temperature swings – days which are much hotter or colder than normal – helped drive the world’s biggest jump in gas consumption for more than 30 years.
Dale said the increase in the number of extreme weather events and increasing demand for energy could be a vicious cycle. “If there is a link between the growing levels of carbon in the atmosphere and the types of weather patterns observed in 2018 this would raise the possibility of a worrying vicious cycle: increasing levels of carbon leading to more extreme weather patterns, which in turn trigger stronger growth in energy (and carbon emissions) as households and businesses seek to offset their effects”
Two-thirds of the world’s energy demand increase was due to higher demand in China, India and the US which was in part due to industrial demand, as well as the “weather effect”. This was spurred by an “outsized” energy appetite in the US which recorded the highest number of days with hotter or colder than average days since the 1950s.“On hot days people turn to their air conditioning and fans, on cold days they turn to their heaters. That has a big impact,” Dale said. Dale added that the growth in renewables would need to have climbed by more than twice the rate achieved over the past three years to offset the impact of burning coal for electricity.
Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive, said: “The longer carbon emissions continue to rise, the harder and more costly will be the necessary eventual adjustment to net-zero carbon emissions.”
BP calls for governments to fund carbon capture technology which can scrub the emissions from the flues of power plants and factories before they reach the air. However, BP will not undertake “material” projects without government funding.
“You can’t rely on the generosity of the private sector,” Dale said.