By Melissa Schill

Despite growing concern about fossil carbon dioxide emissions and its negative effect on the climate, global emissions continue to grow; emissions hit a record high in 2019.

“Renewable energy is growing exponentially, but this growth has so far been too low to offset the growth in fossil energy consumption,” according to a report released by the Global Carbon Project. When it comes to global energy consumption, oil is the greatest, followed closely by coal and gas. Compared to these leading three sources, energy sources such as bioenergy, hydropower, nuclear and wind are responsible for very little of total global energy consumption. 

Though they reached a record high, the growth in carbon dioxide emissions is slowing down. Industrial emissions grew by 2.1 percent in 2018. In 2019, industrial emissions are projected to rise only 0.6 percent.

Coal v. Natural Gas

Recently, coal has fallen in popularity due to competition from cheaper alternatives, such as natural gas. This mass switch is obvious in data surrounding global fossil CO2 emissions. Natural gas contributed the most to global emissions growth from 2017-2019, followed by oil. Natural gas produces less carbon dioxide per unit of energy than coal so while using natural gas does not help eliminate CO2 emissions, it does not hurt as much as coal does. In America, the decline of coal usage lowered CO2 emissions 27 percent below 2005 levels.

“‘Natural gas may produce fewer carbon emissions than coal, but that just means you cook the planet a bit more slowly,’” Glen Peters, the research director at the Center for International Climate Research, told the New York Times

China, the United States, the European Union and India are responsible for the majority of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. They contribute 26 percent, 14 percent, 9 percent and 7 percent respectively. Electricity, head and energy are responsible for 45 percent of global fossil carbon dioxide emissions. Industry, such as factory emissions, is responsible for 23 percent, and transport is responsible for 19 percent.

Climate Change

The growth in CO2 emissions is resulting in climate change. The recent fires in California, the drought in the Southwest region of America and the largest flood to date in Venice are all evidence of this. Arctic sea ice is melting so fast that by the 2030s ice will not exist in the summer season. Permafrost is also melting, releasing large amounts of stored carbon into the air. Sea levels are rising by 4.5 millimeters per year.

With carbon dioxide emissions still hitting new heights and climate change becoming a serious and devastating issue, the slower growth seen in global emissions needs to be slowed significantly more.