Monday, September 16, 2019
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These ‘missing charts’ may change the way you think about fossil fuel addiction

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To address the twin threats of climate change and ocean acidification, nearly every nation has promised to reduce fossil fuel burning.

But so far, humanity keeps burning ever more. Last year we did it again, burning an all-time record amount.

That’s according to data compiled from the latest “BP Statistical Review of World Energy.” This annual report is one of the most widely used and referenced around the world. It’s big and comprehensive with fifty pages, thirty-three spreadsheets and forty charts. The report highlights most of the important trends in global energy. Most. But one critical trend was nowhere to be found….

Conspicuously absent was the basic statistic on fossil fuels that I, as a climate reporter, was looking for: how much fuel is the world burning each year? Such a simple question, and the answer tells one of the most important stories in the world: are we finally turning the corner on our fossil fuel dependency?

To find that missing story, I needed to download and combine multiple BP data sheets, do the math, and then build my own charts to reveal the trends. Here (drumroll, please) are the “missing charts” and what they have to say to us…

The missing charts: how much carbon-polluting fuel is humanity burning?

I built three charts using the compiled BP fossil fuel data. This first chart shows the total energy consumed from burning fossil fuels each year.

Global fossil fuel consumption from 1990 to 2016

As you can see, the amount we burn continues to rise. Last year humanity set another fossil fuel energy record of 11.4 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (Gtoe). A decade ago we were at 10 Gtoe of energy. In 2000, we were at 8 Gtoe.

There is certainly no sign in this chart of a turning point in our relationship to fossil fuels.

My next chart uses the same BP data, but this time shows the annual increase from year to year:

Annual change in global fossil fuel consumption from 1990 to 2016

In 25 of the last 26 years, we burned more fossil fuels than the year before.

The only year in the last quarter century with a decrease was 2009. That was caused by a sharp global recession. And within a year, that rare respite was wiped out by a massive surge that followed.

Sadly, there is no sign of a turning point in this chart either.

Take last year for example. The increase wasn’t particularly large, but it wasn’t particularly small either. In fact, it was right in line with the 1990s average. And the nineties certainly weren’t anyone’s idea of a retreat from burning fossil fuels. Nor were they a turning point in our fight against climate change or ocean acidification. The 1990s were business-as-usual.

Finally, here’s a third view of the same BP data. This one illustrates fossil fuels’ share of all global energy. Turning point?

Fossil fuels share of global energy from 1990 to 2016

What this chart says to me is that fossil fuels continue to absolutely dominate global energy consumption. Even a quarter century of global efforts to transition to safer energy sources was unable to make any meaningful dent in the dominance of fossil fuels.

Together, these three “missing” charts of BP’s fossil fuel data — ever rising amounts; increasing every year; and maintaining uncontested dominance — paint a sobering picture of humanity’s lackluster response to the growing threat.

As California Governor Jerry Brown lamented in a recent New York Times interview: “No nation or state is doing what they should be doing. This is damn serious, and most people are taking it far too lightly than the reality of the threat. You can’t do too much to sound the alarm because so far the response is not adequate to the challenge.”

Those three missing charts illustrate our inadequate response quite clearly. Perhaps that is why BP (an oil & gas company after all) left them out of their report.

To read the full, original article from The National Observer, please click here

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