Global Carbon Emissions Flatten as Economy Grows – For Second Straight Year
The increase in clean energy around the globe is having a tangible effect – in both 2014 and 2015, greenhouse gas emissions did not increase, while the global GDP grew by 3.4 and 3.1 percent respectively.
This is big news because for the previous four decades, emissions and GDP have increased or decreased in tandem. Economic growth historically means more energy use – to build factories, to transport goods, to construct housing. The fact that we’ve seen a decoupling over the last two years shows that we are getting a much larger portion of our energy from non-polluting sources.
Climate activists have long argued that economies can thrive without being dependent on fossil fuels. These statistics bear that out. But as this Washington Post article explains, though it’s encouraging that emissions have flattened, they haven’t substantially dropped. Any additional carbon in the atmosphere is a concern, which is why we have to keep working to drastically reduce emissions as quickly as possible.
Chris Mooney, contributor to The Washington Post
Roughly a year ago, the International Energy Agency announced a wonky yet nonetheless significant development. Looking at data for the year 2014, the agency found that although the global economy grew — by 3.4 percent that year — greenhouse gas emissions from the use of energy (their largest source) had not. They had stalled at about 32.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, just as in 2013.
The agency called this a “decoupling” of growth from carbon dioxide emissions, and noted that it was the “the first time in 40 years in which there was a halt or reduction in emissions of the greenhouse gas that was not tied to an economic downturn.” For decades prior to 2014, economic growth had pretty much always meant more pollution of the atmosphere, and a worsening climate problem.
It now seems like 2014 wasn’t just a fluke — IEA is saying the same thing about 2015. In a news release Wednesday, the agency said that 2014’s hint of decoupling had now been “confirmed,” as 2015 also saw flat emissions combined with 3.1 percent global GDP growth. Emissions, the agency said, were just 32.1 billion metric tons in 2015, based on preliminary data — indicating perhaps even a slight downturn from 2014.
Image credit: EPA/David Chang