By: Meteorologist Michael Karow
Updated: Feb 25th 2019

Fossil Fuels...Still On The Rise

Although great strides have been made in recent years on the path to relying more on renewable energy sources for global energy needs, including record levels of renewable energy capacity and decreasing coal use, especially in the United States and Europe, the emission of the greenhouse gas CO2 continues to increase worldwide. After a period of relatively stable global emissions from 2014-2016, CO2 emissions grew by 1.6% in 2017, and are expected to grow anywhere from 1.8%–3.7% in 2018.

In the United States, this rise in CO2 emissions in 2018 is driven by two main causes: cars and cold weather. A cold winter across the East and a warmer than average summer across much of the country increased energy demands for both heating and cooling. In addition, lower gasoline prices have spurred both more gasoline consumption and sales of larger vehicles including trucks and SUVs. 

Internationally, the biggest change in energy consumption and CO2 emissions in 2018 has occurred in China. After relatively stable emissions over the past four years, 2018 emissions are projected to rise by 5%. Global economic growth has driven an increased demand for building materials such as iron, steel, aluminum, and cement manufactured in China, all of which are energy-intensive. Furthermore, the demand in China for vehicles running on fossil fuels continues to climb. 

There is some good news, though. In spite of the economic growth in both the United States and Europe, per-person CO2 emissions have actually decreased. In addition, reliance on coal for energy in both these regions has shown a marked decline. 

Total carbon dioxide emissions (2000-17) from fossil sources, by region [Global Carbon Project]
U.S. average annual energy consumption 2000-17, by fuel source [BP 2018]