Energy related CO emissions COVID

Global oil demand and CO2 emissions likely peaked in 2019

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To avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, our global society must find a way to radically reduce our carbon emissions in the next few decades. According to the Norwegian energy consultancy DNV GL we are beginning to do just that. The firm now projects that 2019 will likely have been the historic peak of both global oil demand as well as carbon emissions, two years earlier than they previously projected.

Let me repeat, it’s possible that humanity will never again emit more carbon than we did in 2019.

Annual total CO emissions Our World in Data
Source: Our World in Data

The altered projections come primarily due to the massive effect of COVID-19 on the global economy. The pandemic has significantly reduced global economic productivity this year due to widespread shutdowns. As a result, 2020’s carbon emissions and oil demand are expected to plummet relative to 2019.

But the pandemic is also expected to significantly reshape the economy and human behavior for years and even decades to come.

“Lasting behavioural changes to travel, commuting and working habits will also decrease energy usage and lessen demand for fossil fuels from the transport sector as well as from iron and steel production,” DNV GL said.

If DNV’s projections hold true, this is indeed a momentous moment in human history, a potent symbol of our transition to a carbon-free society. But it must be noted that DNV believes the altered trajectory of carbon emissions of the next several decades is still insufficient to meet our global 2050 carbon goals set in the Paris Agreement. If we are to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, we cannot simply continue our current trajectory, we must find new ways to reinvent our economy and our way of being.

What will you do to steepen the carbon curve?


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Peter Schulte

Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA, USA with his wife, son, and cat.

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