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Climate Snapshot


Climate fail. Surging fossil fuels are leaving renewable energy far, far behind.

Barry Saxifrage
Apr 14th, 2014

As humanity reaches for more energy, fossil fuels are being selected for five out of every six new units of energy.

The energy gap between fossil fuels and renewable energy continues to grow dramatically wider despite decades of efforts to prevent a full-blown climate crisis. Even more troubling, the gap is accelerating.

Take a look. My chart below shows global energy use by year, divided into fossil fuels vs everything else. You can see how fossil fuels have been relentlessly widening their lead, decade after decade. And the biggest leap has been in the last decade.


Picture a footrace in which -- decade after decade -- the "fossil fuels" runner consistently sprints five kilometres for every one kilometre the "climate-safe" runner jogs. The gap between them grows rapidly and relentlessly.

Twenty one ways America would destroy a safe climate -- and one way they won't: US govt. report

Barry Saxifrage
Apr 4th, 2014

America -- the world's all-time largest climate polluter -- currently emits more climate pollution than 175 other nations combined. Per person, Americans emit more than double the climate pollution of Europeans, Japanese or Chinese and ten times more than Indians or Indonesians. Clearly, any hope for a safe climate future requires America to meet its climate promises to dramatically cut climate pollution over the long term.

So when the US government's flagship Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) report shows that every American energy scenario they evaluted that did not have a carbon fee resulted in dramatic climate failure -- people around the world should pay attention. To highlight just how badly America fails without a fee on climate pollution I created the chart below from the AEO data. It includes the CO2 projections for all twenty one AEO energy scenarios that do not include a CO2 fee. I've also included America's climate goals as a dotted green line. (click chart to view full size)

Fracking in America kills off clean energy, leading to higher emissions: EIA report

Barry Saxifrage
Mar 28th, 2014

Chart by Barry Saxifrage ( Data from U.S. EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2013. 

America's surge in cheap fracked gas is acting like a climate change Jekyll and Hyde. In the public eye, fracked gas is being applauded for replacing climate-dirtier coal burning. But behind the scenes, it is also an efficient killer of climate-safer energy projects.

The net result -- according to projections from the US government's Energy Information Agency (EIA) -- will be higher levels of climate pollution in the long run. The EIA's flagship Annual Energy Outlook report projects that the greater the supply of fracked natural gas in America the higher that nation's CO2 emissions will become.

Take a look. This first chart below is from the EIA. It shows their CO2 projections for five different energy scenarios.


BP calls for global carbon price to avoid the "worst impacts of climate change"

Barry Saxifrage
Mar 20th, 2014

Last year BP projected global climate pollution would "most likely" surge 26% by 2030. As I reported at the time, this would crank up the Earth's thermostat a disastrous +4C according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). That is twice the +2C threshold for "dangerous climate change" that all major nations have promised to stay below.

RELATED ARTICLE: Peak Oil solved, but climate will fry: BP report

This week BP delivered even worse news in their Sustainability Review 2013 report. If the world's nations continue muddling along with their slow and incremental changes to climate policies then the most likely result will be:

Stuck on climate broil: ratio of fossil fuels to renewables unchanged in twenty five years. Now what?

Barry Saxifrage
Mar 17th, 2014

The head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) highlighted an ominous long-term trend in a speech last month:

"Despite much talk by our leaders about the need to clean up our energy system, it is still as dirty as it was two decades ago. Fossil fuels today account for 82 percent of the global energy mix – a level that has not changed in 20 years … The continuation of this trend is not compatible with the 2‐degree Celsius target that our leaders have vowed to meet. So we have a lot of work to do."

-- IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven on 22 February 2014 at M.I.T.

Techno-optimists have hoped that technology would solve the climate crisis for us by delivering a renewable energy revolution. They regularly point to amazing technological advances in solar panels, wind turbines, advanced biofuels, hydropower and enhanced geothermal.

If only.

US State Dept expects massive climate failure from President Obama, America and world

Barry Saxifrage
Mar 11th, 2014

US Secretary of State John Kerry claims "the United States is committed to doing its part" to fight the "clear and present danger" of the climate crisis.

But a high-profile, eleven-volume, multi-year study from his own department says to expect only rising carbon emissions and broken climate promises from America.

The only future this State Department study expects will occur is one in which:

  • America fails to meet President Obama's Copenhagen Accord target
  • America emits even more CO2 in 2040 than it does today
  • American CO2 levels are consistent with the International Energy Agency's (IEA) scenario for +6C of global warming

The IEA says such a future would be a "catastrophe for all of us." International Monetary Fund (IMF) director has stated bluntly that in a world that hot, "future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled."

In other words, spectacular American failure. Game over.

Back to square one for Keystone XL decision as major error uncovered in State Dept report

Barry Saxifrage
Feb 17th, 2014

Note: A version of this chart and an article discussing the implications were first published by Oil Change International.

Is approving Keystone XL compatible with America's climate goals? Amazingly the latest US State Dept report didn't bother to find out.

In a few months, US Secretary of State John Kerry and US President Obama will have to make the high-stakes decision whether to reject or approve the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Secretary Kerry and President Obama have repeatedly said that meeting America's climate goals and working to limit global warming to less than +2oC are top priorities for them.

As a result, President Obama has explicitly stated that the climate impact of Keystone XL will be a critical factor in his decision.

So just how big a climate impact would Keystone XL have?

To supply an answer to Secretary Kerry and President Obama, the State Department spent years assembling a massive Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the pipeline.

Tar Secret #6: Oilsands pay one dime per barrel for their climate pollution

Barry Saxifrage
Jan 15th, 2014

The "Tar Secrets" series delivers you essential climate facts missing from government and tar sands marketing spin.

The best information I can find shows that Alberta's tar sands industry paid just ten cents per barrel for their climate pollution last year. 

For scale, consider that the industry sells those barrels for 800 times that much: $80.

Environment Canada projects that Alberta's weak climate policies will allow the CO2 from their tar sands industry to increase so much that they will single-handedly wipe out all the CO2 cuts being made by all the rest of Canadians -- for years to come.

Figuring out just how much the tar sands industry actually pays per barrel for their climate pollution required some detective work. I've never seen the figure published. And as anyone who has looked at Alberta's climate policies knows, they are so full of complexities and exemptions that it can be hard to figure out just who is paying how much. Below are the best future and past estimates I could find. (Note: see "Geeky Details" section on page 2 of this article for the data and the math on both future and past estimates.) 

Unconventional oil and gas will fry climate: ExxonMobil report

Barry Saxifrage
Jan 5th, 2014

ExxonMobil's influential global energy report, "The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040", says that new technologies like fracking and tar sands are unlocking a gusher of oil and natural gas.

Our ability to extract new sources of fossilized carbon is growing even faster than we can burn them up. ExxonMobil reports that the amazing surge in "unconventional" sources of oil and natural gas is so great that humanity can continue to burn ever increasing amounts of fossil carbon for well over a century.

And that is exactly what they expect the world will do.

The oil and gas giant expects humanity will meet two-thirds of our increased energy demand by choosing to burn even more oil and gas than we do now.

Climate pollution: 140 nations vs Alberta's tar sands

Barry Saxifrage
Nov 21st, 2013

Graphic by Barry Saxifrage

Today, the climate damage caused by extracting and burning the tarry bitumen from Alberta's oil sands exceeds the combined CO2 emissions from over 100 nations.

The industry plans to double their rate of bitumen extraction within a decade. By 2020 the climate pollution from extracting and burning all this bitumen will exceed the combined CO2 emission from over 140 nations -- home to more than one billion people.

In just the next eight years, the oil sands industry's expansion plans will cause an increase in the annual climate pollution from Alberta's bitumen equal to the combined CO2 emissions from:

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