The world economy is roaring again, and it has the emissions to prove it. Global carbon dioxide emissions were up 7.4% through the first four months of the year, according to Carbon Monitor, an academic research project that monitors daily CO2 output worldwide.
The increase was led by China, where factories have rumbled back to life, stoking demand for coal-fired electricity and sending emissions soaring 18% over 2020 levels. India recorded a nearly 15% jump in emissions, driven in large part by increased coal generation, while emissions in the European Union were up almost 10%. The United States, by contrast, posted a relatively modest increase of 3.3%.
The numbers represent a snapshot in time. Part of the reason the emissions increase in China appears so large is because the country was in a strict economic lockdown during the first part of 2020. Its economy has steadily improved in the second half of the year.
India’s emissions figures are likely to decline once the full extent of a withering wave of coronavirus infections this spring is accounted for. And U.S. motorists are just now hitting the road for the summer driving season, buoyed by a mass vaccination rollout that has seen states lift most of their remaining restrictions amid a plunge in new coronavirus cases.
The figures nevertheless illustrate how the world remains strikingly similar to its pre-pandemic self. Global emissions through April were just 1.2% lower than the first four months of 2019….
But if 2020 underlined the way the world’s energy system is changing, 2021 underscores how much remains the same. The IEA thinks global coal demand will increase by 4.5% this year, pushing worldwide coal consumption above 2019 and toward its 2014 peak. Eighty percent of the growth in coal demand is expected to come from Asian countries, with 50% from China alone….
China is hardly the only country where coal generation has increased this year. In India, where coal is the foundation of the power grid, emissions surged thanks to a 21% increase in CO2 output from power plants.
Coal generation has even increased in countries where the fuel is in sustained decline. U.S. coal consumption was almost a third higher in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the same time last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s May “Short-Term Energy Outlook.” Carbon Monitor thinks that helped spur an almost 13% increase in U.S. power-sector emissions.