Last year saw the most rapid increase in carbon emissions from the world’s energy industry since 2011, BP’s latest global energy review reports. The increase came as extreme weather and temperature shifts boosted demand for fossil fuels, according to The Guardian.
Carbon emissions rose 2.9 percent, according to Bloomberg, the most in almost a decade. According to BP chief economist Spencer Dale, that’s equivalent to putting a total of 400 million new cars on the road.
It was also the second year in a row to see an increase in coal use, following three years of decline. Much that increase was driven by development in Asia.
The BP report is the first indication that unexpected shifts in the world’s temperature are actually increasing the use of fossil fuels, in what could become a dangerous feedback loop.
According to Dale:
“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 increase stemmed from higher demand in China, India, and the US, in part due to a “weather effect,” with more extreme temperatures. The US faced the most days that were hotter or colder than average since the 1950s. The combined total of these more extreme temperatures in the US, Russia, and China was especially high, and all three countries rely heavily on fossil fuels.
“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 explained.
In the US, that demand was met by increased oil and gas production, setting a record for the all-time largest annual increase by any country.
Despite these trends, renewable energy use increased 15 percent, almost reaching the record increase seen a year before. Output from biomass, geothermal, solar, wind, and burning waste made up about a third of the total increase in power generation overall. China added more renewable power capacity than many of the most developed nations combined.
The world’s temperatures have risen 1 degree Celsius since the industrial revolution in the 19th century, on track to double by the end of this century. It’s the most rapid change in the earth’s climate since the end of the ice age 10,000 years ago.