The world’s CO2 emissions dipped in 2015. But don’t celebrate just yet.

We’re here! On the peak! Unless I forgot about India…(Shutterstock)


 (Global Carbon Project)

See that dip at the end? A new study in Nature Climate Change reports that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions likely dropped in 2015, the first time that’s ever happened without the help of a global economic crisis.

That’s definitely noteworthy. And there are some interesting underlying reasons for the drop, mainly regarding shifts in China’s energy habits, which we’ll get to in a sec.

The trouble is that a number of media outlets, including the New York Times, have gone even further, suggesting that global carbon emissions might finally be peaking for good in 2015. That seems unlikely. And don’t take my word for it: One of the study’s authors, Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia, has flat-out said it’s very unlikely.

So before anyone uncorks the champagne, it’s worth exploring why we’re (probably) not at peak emissions just yet. It’s a good way to see what a vast undertaking it will be to decarbonize the world’s energy supply and halt global warming.

Why CO2 emissions fell worldwide in 2015 (hint: China)

It’s true that something remarkable happened in 2015. Historically, worldwide CO2 emissions have gone up each and every year unless there’s a major crisis that puts a dent in global economic growth. So emissions dipped temporarily in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and they fell temporarily in 2008 with the financial crisis. But once growth returns, they usually go up, up, up.

This year appears to be the first time that didn’t happen. The global economy grew at healthy 3.1 percent clip this year, but emissions fell nonetheless.

If we zoom in for a country-by-country breakdown, we can see more clearly what’s happening here:

 (Global Carbon Project)

Emissions are clearly declining in a lot of wealthy, developed countries around the world. They’ve hit a peak in overall fossil fuel consumption and are now making the transition to cleaner forms of energy. In the United States, we’ve been replacing coal plants with lower-carbon natural gas plants and adding more wind and solar. In the European Union, CO2 emissions have been declining since 1990.

In poorer, developing nations, by contrast, emissions continue to grow rapidly. China, India, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, etc. are all ramping up their use of coal, oil, and natural gas to increase electricity use, power factories, put more vehicles on the road, and generally get richer. They’re trying to catch up with the Canadas and Japans of the world. (Also note that rich countries have been outsourcing their factories, and hence emissions, to poorer countries.)

But the biggest story of all is China, the world’s No. 1 emitter. Ever since the 1990s, China has been growing at a spectacular rate, mainly fueled by coal. That, in turn, has helped drive up global emissions.

Until now. In 2015, as best anyone can tell, China’s emissions appear to have stalled out and then dropped — which, in turn, helped drive the decline in global emissions. China is so huge that its every hiccup causes the world to rumble. Which raises the follow-up question…

What the heck is going on in China?

Let’s zoom in for a breakdown of China’s energy use. The country’s energy statistics are notoriously unreliable, so we do need to be cautious here. But the big story here seems to be coal:

 (Global Carbon Project)

China’s coal consumption appears to have tapered off in 2014 and then dropped in 2015, which was arguably the main reason for the dip in emissions worldwide.

Now here’s where things get murky: It’s quite difficult to figure out how much of the drop in China’s coal use (if it’s real) was due to temporary factors and how much was due to permanent structural changes that will last for years to come. I wrote about this at lengthhere.

On the temporary side: China has had some unusually wet years of late, which have allowed it to squeeze more electricity out of its hydroelectric dams and reduce output from its coal power plants. Also, China has been going through a major economic slowdown this year, after years of breakneck growth. That’s also put a dent in coal consumption, though it raises the possibility of a rebound in the years ahead.

At the same time, however, China is taking other measures to facilitate a gradual shift away from coal. Utilities are adding more nuclear, wind, and solar capacity. The country is also trying to transition from factory-centric growth to service-centric growth, which would likely entail slower rates of coal consumption growth in the future.

If you put this all together, what you’d expect is that China’s CO2 emissions will likely rebound in the years ahead and keep growing — but at a considerably lower rate than they have over the last two decades. Indeed, that’s the official view from Beijing, which expects emissions to keep growing more slowly in the years ahead until peaking sometime around 2030.

Why we (probably) haven’t hit peak global emissions yet

No one has a crystal ball, but right now, many experts are predicting that global emissions won’t peak until around 2030 or so, at least on our current course. Indeed, most analyses of the climate pledges currently being submitted to the UN suggest as much:

 (Javier Zarracina/Vox)

There are a few reasons why most forecasters think emissions will keep rising for the next 15 years or so (at least):

First, China. As noted above, it’s entirely plausible that China’s drop in emissions this year was a blip, an artifact of better-than-average hydro output and the economic slump. Going forward, the country may not go through the same coal-fueled industrial binge that it did in the 1990s and 2000s, but there’s still plenty of room for further fossil-fuel growth. Chinese car ownership is still well below European levels and even per capita household electricity use remains one-fourth of Germany’s. That all helps explain why the central government doesn’t expect emissions to peak until 2030 or so.

Then there’s India. India is still very poor, with emissions per capita just one-third that of Europe. The country still has 300 million people without electricity, and the government has ambitious plans to greatly expand coal consumption in the decades ahead. Fossil-fuel use is all but certain to skyrocket. The big question for India is how much of that expected demand can be supplanted by cleaner sources. The country has major plans to expand solar power, but solar can’t (yet) compete with coal on either price or reliability.

Then there are all those other developing countries. Indonesia. South Africa. Mexico. Turkey. They’re also expected to see continued emissions growth in the decades ahead, and they collectively have plans for hundreds of new coal plants.

The betting line is that this emissions growth in poorer developing countries will continue to outweigh the cuts made by the United States, Europe, and other rich countries for the next decade or two. If we want to reach a global CO2 peak sooner, then either those rich countries will have to make even deeper cuts or those poorer countries will have to switch over to clean energy even faster than they’re doing.

And, of course, if we want to halt global warming, then it’s not enough for annual CO2 emissions simply to peak. Emissions then have to start declining sharply, eventually going down all the way to zero.

Carbon intensity has to fall 6% each year if we want to avoid serious global warming. We’re at ~1%.


Or here’s a simpler way to think about the decarbonization challenge, courtesy of a recent report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

The graph above shows carbon intensity, which is the amount of carbon-dioxide the world needs to emit to generate a dollar of economic activity. The number needs to go down sharply over time if we want to enjoy economic growth without corresponding emissions growth.

The good news is that global carbon intensity has been declining over time, by about 1.3 percent per year since 2000. We’ve been getting more energy-efficient and adding more clean-energy capacity. Today, we’re able to generate more economic activity with fewer and fewer fossil fuels.

The bad news is that carbon intensity isn’t dropping fast enough. If we want emissions to peak by 2030 and keep global warming to around 3°C — which is currently what countries are aiming to do in their UN climate pledges — then carbon intensity has to decline by 3 percent per year. Only a few countries have managed to sustain that pace since the beginning of the millennium. (The United Kingdom is one.)

And if we want to stay within the carbon budget thought necessary to avoid 2°C of global warming? Then carbon intensity has to drop by a jaw-dropping 6.3 percent each year. Very, very few countries have managed to sustain that pace for any length of time. It’s equivalent to what France pulled off back in the 1980s when it was massively scaling up its nuclear program. To stay below 2°C, every country in the world would have to make similar strides, and sustain it for decades.

That‘s the scale of the challenge. And the question of whether we can decarbonize that rapidly is way more relevant for climate change than fussing over the precise year that emissions peak.

China Installed More Solar Power in 2013 than the US has in its Whole History

As long as dim-witted people are running Congress, the above headline will be commonplace around the globe, except for the United States and that’s a sad commentary…

Informed Comment – Joshua Hill

Despite predictions all through 2013 suggesting that Japan would walk away the dominant solar PV market, Bloomberg New Energy Finance has revealed that China “outstripped even the most optimistic forecasts” to install a record 12 GW of photovoltaic projects in 2013.

In fact, a massive boom at the end of the year could even have pushed the nation’s market up to 14 GW, a phenomenal feat considering that no country has never added more than 8 GW in a year.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) had predicted that Japan would come out on top in 2013, ahead of China and then the US, but with a feed-in tariff for large PV projects ending on the first of 2014, the year-end rush will not be wholly understood until March.

“The 2013 figures show the astonishing scale of the Chinese market, now the sleeping dragon has awoken” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “PV is becoming ever cheaper and simpler to install, and China’s government has been as surprised as European governments by how quickly it can be deployed in response to incentives.”

Even China’s state news agency could not have predicted the massive boom which took place. And in July it was announced that China aimed to add 10 GW of solar power a year for the next three years — a target they seem to have hit rather easily.

Surprisingly, many market analysis companies scoffed at China’s targets for 2014. IHS and Mercom Capital both released reports earlier this year suggesting that China would struggle to reach their aim of 12 GW for 2014, but with 2013′s impressive stats, one wonders whether analysts will be revising their predictions in the next few weeks, especially in the wake of new estimations suggesting that China is aiming for 14 GW in 2014.

With the majority of solar projects located on the country’s sunny and empty western provinces, China’s state-owned power generators China Power Investment Corporation, China Three Gorges and China Huadian Corporation have become the world’s largest owners of solar assets.

Ban Coal: Coal Industry Chemical Threatens 300,000 in West Virginia

FEMA: The federal government sent 75 trucks - each carrying 18,500 liters of water - as well as bottled water to help provide water for those in need
FEMA: The federal government sent 75 trucks – each carrying 18,500 liters of water – as well as bottled water to help provide water for those in need.
 | Reuters

I’m not an advocate for coal so I agree that this report by Juan Cole is on point.

Juan Cole – Informed Comment

Some 300,000 West Virginians are at risk from their tap water after a company making MCHM spilled it into the river, turning it a little purple and making it smell like liquorice. MCHM can be fatal if imbibed, and otherwise it can make you vomit your guts out. It is used to wash coal of impurities.

Coal is destroying the earth. Some 40% of US carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal. That amounts to 2 billion metric tons of C02 annually that Americans spew into the atmosphere by burning coal. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, extra amounts of which have been building up in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution and it is warming the earth and the seas inexorably. Humankind only has to 2020 to avoid going beyond a temperature increase of 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit. If we go to 7, 8, 9 degrees F. increase, the whole weather system could become chaotic, threatening human life.

But apart from the threat burning coal forms in causing climate change, it is just really bad for you. Burning it releases massive amounts of mercury into the environment. Mercury is a nerve gas. It isn’t normal that you can only eat fish once or twice a week for fear of being mercury-poisoned. There is some evidence that it may be implicated in the increase in autism among children. Burning coal kills 13,000 Americans each year. That is four 9/11 attacks every year. We had a war on terror, but no president dares announce a war on coal.

And now it should be clear that some of the chemicals used in producing coal for power plants are themselves highly toxic and form a constant health threat.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Wind power is just about as inexpensive as coal, now. The American Midwest, the most highly coal-dependent region in the country, is the Saudi Arabia of wind. And, it has substantial potential for solar power generation, as well.

There are already as many American jobs in the solar power industry as there are American workers in coal mines. The workers can be retrained to install solar panels on people’s roofs.

The US and the world need to make a final push to go as green as possible as soon as possible. Coal is a drag on any such effort.

AP reports:

For the evils of coal see:

Mary Landrieu, Mark Begich Defend Oil Companies Against Democrats

This is why the Dems are so screwed.  The GOPers walk in lockstep (with an exception here or there) while the Dems have three factions, Blue Dogs, Progressives and Liberals.  The GOP messaging is consistent.  The Dems are all over the place!

“A house divided…”

Huffington Post

The Democratic attempt to take on the major oil companies is being challenged from within, with representatives of producing states rushing to the defense of the dirty-energy industry, complicating the plan to present a stark contrast between the two parties.

Democratic Sens. Mark Begich and Mary Landrieu, who represent Alaska and Louisiana, respectively, each took to the Senate floor Wednesday to decry their party’s attempt to strip tax breaks from the top oil companies.

Landrieu bemoaned the “inherent unfairness” of closing the tax loophole, insisting that doing so “will not reduce gasoline prices by one penny.”

Begich chided the party for putting message over substance. “It is a gimmick, a gimmick to get the next week of activity, and get some press out there,” he said. “Picking on one industry because it sounds good, rates good in the polls, gets you a couple of headlines is not what the American people want us to do here. If anything, they’re getting fed up with that. … Let’s stop the headline-grabbing and get serious about the energy security.”

The infighting couldn’t come at a worse time for Democratic leaders. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is reportedly “leaning towards” voting to strip the tax breaks, citing “record profits” that come from the companies’ “tax advantage,” according to a tweet from CNN’s Ted Barrett.

Continued here…

BREAKING NEWS: 100-Mile Long Oil Slick Spotted Off Louisiana Coast

Seal of the U.S. Coast Guard Deployable Operat...
Image via Wikipedia

Oh no, not again…or is this simply a case of the sea giving up the oil that BP tried to bury back in 2010?

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating reports of a potentially massive oil sheen about 20 miles north of the site of last April’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.

A helicopter crew and pollution investigators have been dispatched to Main Pass Block 41 in response to two calls to the National Response Center, the federal point of contact for reporting oil and chemical spills, said Paul Barnard, an operations controller for Coast Guard Sector New Orleans.

The first caller, around 11 a.m., described a sheen of about a half-mile long and a half-mile wide, he said.

About two hours later, another caller reported a much larger sheen — about 100 miles long — originating in the same area and spreading west to Cocodrie on Terrebonne Bay, Barnard said.

“We haven’t been able to verify that, and it would be very unlikely for an individual to be able to observe a 100-mile long sheen,” he said, adding inspection teams were en route around 3 p.m. to the site.

Eileen Angelico of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which oversees offshore oil and natural gas production, said late Saturday afternoon that her agency was awaiting Coast Guard confirmation of the nature of the sheen. The bureau had not received word from any operators in the gulf of a spill, she said.

Please stay with for updates.

11 Great Stimulus Projects… GOP ‘Pledge’ To Cut

The emblem of, the official site ...
Image via Wikipedia


Huffington Post 

Republican leaders insist, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that President Obama’s $800-billion-or-so stimulus package from last year hasn’t accomplished anything. (This is driving top White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein absolutely crazy.) 

Progressive groups — and most leading economists — say the problem with the stimulus was that it didn’t do enough, because it wasn’t nearly as big as it should have been. 

Lost amid those arguments is what exactly the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act did accomplish — which, by comparison to almost anything except the massive output gap it was supposed to fill, is a lot. 

On Tuesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the act added from 1.4 million to 3.3 million jobs during the second quarter of 2010. 

In addition to $288 billion in tax cuts, the Recovery Act funded all sorts of worthy projects that created jobs, backstopped a number of safety-net programs, and made huge investments in infrastructure, energy independence, mass transit and other public goods. 

Here are 11 projects that got stimulus money. Do you think they deserved your tax money? 

Helping Wounded Warriors 

The Defense Department is using $100 million in Recovery Act funds to construct two complexes for the Warrior Transition program, which helps ill and injured soldiers recover and return to duty or to their communities. One of the two stimulus-funded projects is in Fort Bliss, Texas. The $41-million project includes design and construction of a barracks, an administrative building, and a “Soldier and Family Assistance Center.” 

Building Battery Factories 

The Recovery Act provided $2.4 billion for development of domestic industry to make lighter, more energy-dense lithium-ion batteries designed to power electric vehicles. A123 Systems, a battery-technology innovator that got its start at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, received $249 million in stimulus grants to build battery factories in Livonia, Romulus and Brownstown, Mich. According to the New York Times, the company’s investment in southeast Michigan will total over $600 million, and more than 800 workers are expected to be employed at the two newest plants. 

Charging Stations For Electric Cars 

ECOtality in Phoenix, Arizona is helping bring the first public charging stations for electric cars to cities around the country. The company received a $114-million Recovery Act grant, which will help it deploy nearly 15,000 charging stations in 16 cities in six states (Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Tennessee and Texas) plus the District of Columbia. More than 8,000 qualifying drivers of the Nissan LEAF and the Chevrolet Volt will be provided with a residential charger for free. has more. 

Turning Wind Into Electricity 

 Iberdrola Renewables Inc. received a $170-million tax credit for its Streator Cayuga Ridge wind park in Livingston County, Illinois. The company’s 150 turbines will generate 300 megawatts of clean, renewable energy — enough to power over 86,000 typical American homes. It created 300 jobs during its construction. 

Building Wind-Energy Components Here 

Wind farms are great – but what about when all those turbines are made in China? Some stimulus money is going to help states like Michigan establish a new energy economy. Energetx Composites, a Holland, Mich.-based composite manufacturer, received a $3.5-million “Clean Energy Advanced Manufacturing” grant funded by the Recovery Act. The company is using the grant to diversify its product line, developing and manufacturing wind-energy components. To meet its growing needs, the company has teamed up with Grand Rapids Community College — which received over $8.5 million in stimulus grants — to develop a new technician-training curriculum. 

See the other six here… 

Related Articles 

Fox & Friends Compare Jimmy Buffett To Hugo Chavez

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Jimmy Buffet held a free concert in Alabama last night for the victims of the BP oil eruption in the Gulf.   This is what the clowns at Fox & Friends had to say: 

News Hounds – Aunty Em 

The Three Stooges on the Curvy Couch, also known as Fox & Friends, set out against a brand new target Friday (7/9/10), one I never thought I’d see attacked on a news show. It was a case of changes in latitude, no changes in attitude as the Couch Crew went after Jimmy Buffett for daring to say that the BP oil spill disaster was the fault of the Bush administration’s energy policies. 


Gretchen Carlson: Okay. Jimmy Buffett. Here we have another celebrity—alright, he’s a great musician, right? Well, guess who he’s blaming for [starts chuckling like she can’t believe her ears] the oil spill now? 

Steve Doocy: Who do anybody blame? 

GC: Who’s the favorite target? I give you 3 seconds to give me a guess. [After zero seconds have passed.] Yep! George Bush. 

SD: LeBron James? [Because Doocy’s silly guess covered over the answer, Carlson had to repeat herself.] 

GC: George Bush. Here’s what—here’s what Jimmy Buffett said at a concert. “To me it was more about 8 years of bad policy, before [Obama] got there, that let this happen. It was Dracula running the blood bank in terms of oil and leases.” 

So didn’t Hugo Chavez, or was it Ahmadinejad, who called Bush the Devil on the U.N. floor? 

Brian Kilmeade: Uh, it was Hugo Chavez. 

GC: Chavez. So now Jimmy Buffet’s— 

BK: But Ahmadinejad would have seconded it— 

GC: —calling him a Dracula. 

BK: Yeah, but this has a lot of people in the area upset. And they’re—it looks like his sister could be paying the price. She’s got a restaurant in the area. People say, “Let’s boycott his sister.” 

Hey, it’s great to have a concert for 35,000 people expecting to go and bring some money to the area. That’s fantastic. July 4th was bad because of the oil spill, but can you just keep your opinions to yourself? 

SD: Sure. If they just want a little entertainment—take their minds off the fact that there’s so much trouble. And, given he has supported Obama in the past, but Margaritaville? To a lot of people it sounded like Koolaidville. 

GC: [Meme complete, the topic changed dramatically, or what we used to call a “hard turn” in the tee vee news game] How about the [soccer predicting] octopus? 

What’s wrong with all of this? Let me count the ways, which will take a lot more than the 1 minute and 15 seconds it took Carlson and Company to recite their talking points and trash Buffett: 

1). Other people, perhaps even smarter than Jimmy Buffett, have blamed the greatest ecological disaster the world has ever seen on the Bush/Cheney/Halliburton oil policies. 

2). If there’s one thing Jimmy Buffett is known for, aside from his music and string of popular restaurants, is that he cares deeply about ecology. His Save the Manatee Club, co-founded in 1981 with former-Florida governor Bob Graham, is now approaching its 30th anniversay. What have The Friends been doing for the environment the past 30 years? 

3). Buffett is personally underwriting the cost of brand new boats to rescue the wildlife harmed by the oil spill. These are specially designed to have shallow bottoms to better get into the shallow marshlands. 

4). Carlson and Co. surely know that making the comparison of Buffett to Hugo Chavez and Ahmadinejad, is a dog whistle to the Fox News audience. 

5). After an exhaustive search I could find no other criticism of Buffett’s remarks anywhere on the net. No one but these three seem to be “upset.” 

6). Nor could I find anyone suggesting “Let’s boycott his sister.” However, isn’t it cute how they slip in the little suggestion that people should start boycotting his sister’s restaurant? 

7). Ted Nugent, the draft-dodger, who has been mentioned here at News Hounds 110 times for his overblown, over the top, rhetoric on FNC. Nugent has used his concerts to call Obama “a piece of shit” and suggested that the then-candidate should “suck on my machine gun.” Yet, we’ve never heard anyone at Fox say about Nugent, “But can you just keep your opinions to yourself?” In fact, just a week prior to this Buffett hit piece from The Curvy Couch, Nugent was welcomed on Hannity with, “How are you my brother? Good to see you!” Of course Nugent used his time wisely. He said Obama “is spitting on the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the 10 Commandments, the golden rule.” 

And, don’t even get me started on Janine Turner

It would seem only those who agree with conservative memes are allowed their First Amendment Rights. Everybody else should sit down and shut up. 

8). Fox News has never been known to keep its opinions to itself. 

The supreme irony in all of this is the fact that Jimmy Buffett fans call themselves “Parrotheads.” Yet, the only ones who are parroting the company line are the The Three Stooges on the Curvy Couch.