Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Global Energy Use and Carbon Emissions, 2005-2035

by Matt Rosenberg July 5th, 2010

SUMMARY: Barring a game-changing breakthrough in policy or technology, global carbon dioxide emissions will grow by 50 percent between 2005 and 2035, thanks in large part to steadily increasing use of coal for energy in developing nations, particularly China. Developed nations will continue to restrict growth in energy consumption and carbon emissions but growing population and economic activity in most of Asia, Africa, Central and South America pose a huge challenge to hopes for widespread and effective action on energy usage and man-made climate change.

BACKGROUND: The U.S. Department of Energy’s projections and statistics division, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently released its “2010 International Energy Outlook.” The heart of the document is a section titled “Reference Case Projections,” which details current and future global energy use, and growth in population, economic activity, carbon dioxide emissions and more, by category of country. A critical distinction is between countries which are members of the OECD, or Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and those which do not. The OECD members, primarily located in the Northern Hemisphere, including Western Europe, are more developed nations, and have already begun to conserve energy and push for limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The non-OECD countries, including the nations comprising South and Central America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Persian Gulf, Africa, and emerging Asia, make up the developing world, where significant population and economic growth are expected to fuel a marked increase in overall global energy use and carbon emissions.

The “reference case projections” for 2035 by the EIA are meant to indicate what to expect if current laws and policies remain unchanged regarding the amount and types of energy used globally. In practical terms, changes in current laws and policies regarding energy use and carbon emissions would need to be substantial, broad and robustly enforced in order to make a difference.

KEY LINK: “Reference Case Projections,” 2010 International Energy Outlook, U.S. Energy Information Administration, May 25, 2010.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Population in the OECD or developed nations will grow from 1.16 billion in 2005 to only 1.34 billion by 2035, while population in non-OECD or developing nations is to increase from 5.33 billion in 2005 to 7.12 billion in 2035.
  • Global carbon dioxide emissions will grow 50 percent from 28,306 million metric tons in 2005 to 42,392 million metric tons in 2035. Non-OECD, or developing nation will account for two-thirds of the 2035 total versus 51 percent in 2005. The annual average percentage growth rate in carbon dioxide emissions between 2005 and 2035 will be one-tenth of one percent in OECD nations versus two percent in non-OECD nations. China will be the greatest contributor to this increase. It’s share of global carbon dioxide emissions will grow from 5.1 percent in 2005 to 31 percent in 2035. (p. 141).
  • Between 2007 and 2035, total primary energy consumption in the developed, or OECD nations will grow by roughly one-seventh, at an annual rate of 0.5 percent, to 280.7 quadrillion BTUs in 2035. In the same period, energy consumption by the developing, or non-OECD nations, will grow at annual rate of 2.2 percent, increasing more than four-fifths to 458 quadrillion BTUs by 2035. (p. 131).
  • The developed world, or OECD nations, will between 2005 and 2035 hold the line on growth in the use of coal, liquid fuels and natural gas, while increasing the use of nuclear energy at an average annual rate of 1 percent and renewables at an average annual rate of two percent. The developing, or non-OECD nations, will in the same period increase their use of coal more than four-fifths, while increasing their use in all other categories of fuel as well. The non-OECD nations in 2035 will have an energy mix that is more than one-quarter liquid fuels, one third coal, one-fifth natural gas, with the remainder (some 17 percent) about 3 parts “other” (including renewables) to 1 part nuclear. (pp. 132-133).
  • Total global energy consumption will increase 56 percent between 2005 and 2035, with coal the most prevalent source, followed by liquid fuels, natural gas, “other” (including renewables), and nuclear (p. 133).
  • Global growth in coal consumption will be led by China, which will more than double its current volume between 2005 and 2035, and will in 2035 account for 71 percent of the global total (p. 138).
  • Gross domestic product (adjusted for purchasing power parity) will grow from 2005 to 2035 at an average annual rate of 2 percent to a total of $63.4 billion in developed, or OECD nations. In developing, or non-OECD nations, the adjusted GDP will grow in the same period at an average annual rate of four percent, to $90.2 billion. (p. 134).

RELATED: “2010 International Energy Outlook,” U.S. Energy Information Administration, May 25, 2010.

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