CO2 Emissions

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Context: The UN's Climate Change Summit began on 23rd September 2019, at a time when the increase in greenhouse gases and variations in global temperatures are at record highs. 

Prelims: Environment & Ecology
Mains: GS III- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Data Analysis:

India is the third-largest contributor to emissions after the U.S and China. Meanwhile, a survey on attitudes to climate change shows that about 6% of U.S. respondents were in denial about climate change. 



  • The world is looking to developed countries to lead the way to a low carbon future. But they are not curbing their reduction in fossil fuel consumption quickly enough.
    In the case of the United States, emissions are headed in the wrong direction altogether. Energy use in the U.S. has increased over the last five years, reversing a decade of decline. Emissions are expected to increase in the US in 2018—a 2.5 percent increase between 2017 and 2018—in part due to weather (greater heating and cooling demands) and increases in oil use due to low oil prices. Emissions declined in the E.U. have slowed recently. Between 2017 and 2018, the EU saw a decline in emissions of only 0.7 percent.
  • At the same time, emissions growth is not slowing in other parts of the world, and in many cases is accelerating. Between 2017 and 2018, CO2 emissions climbed by 6.3 percent in India (a rate three times higher than last year’s) and by 4.7 percent in China (compared with last year’s rate of increase of 3.5 percent). The rest of the world’s emissions have also been growing on average, with CO2 emissions 1.8 percent higher in 2018 than 2017. There are bright spots. Almost 20 countries, contributing 20 percent of global CO2 emissions, have decoupled fossil CO2 emissions and economic growth over the past decade.
  • Natural gas use is seeing the greatest acceleration, growing 2 percent annually in the last five years. While it has a lower carbon footprint than other fossil fuels, such as coal, it is a major source of the increase in carbon dioxide emissions. This is because natural gas is not only being used to replace coal but also meet new energy consumption needs.
  • Oil is also on the rise, with oil consumption up 1.4 percent per year since 2012. Most of the increase has been in China and India, with increases of roughly 4 to 5 percent per year. While it had been previously thought that oil had reached its peak in the U.S. and E.U., oil use increased by 1.3 and 0.4 percent per year in these regions, respectively.
  • Coal consumption has been declining steadily since 2013. Global energy consumption from coal is declining on average almost 1 percent per year. In Canada and the U.S., coal consumption dropped 40 percent since 2005. Coal may be phased out entirely in the United Kingdom by 2025, and in the E.U. renewables may supply more primary energy than coal by 2021.

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