Energy scientists have been worried for months that the year 2022 will become a carbon bomb for the globe. Renewable energy then rode to the rescue. According to the International Energy Agency, this year’s growth in global carbon dioxide emissions due to energy use is expected to be 1%. That is much less than what many analysts predicted earlier this year, when concerns about a switch to coal in several nations were raised by a global spike in natural gas prices.
The IEA reported that although coal use has increased, the impact on emissions has been significantly mitigated by the record-breaking expansion of renewable energy sources. According to the agency, the increase in renewable energy sources alone probably prevented 600 million tons of additional CO2 emissions, which is only slightly less than the 646 million tons of CO2 that Germany created in the previous year. The IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol stated in a statement that the emissions forecasts are fewer “than some people feared” and a sign that structural change is being fueled by decarbonization initiatives. Furthermore, he continued, “those developments are projected to accelerate because to the substantial renewable energy policy proposals that have advanced around the world in recent months.”
Prior to the start of Covid-19, the rate of growth in global emissions had been gradually decreasing. Since then, the global economy has been somewhat up and down, with a record-breaking decrease in emissions in 2020 followed by a comeback of about 5% in 2021. Many analysts predicted that pattern would persist as the economy continued to improve at the start of 2022, driving up demand for energy. Then Russia attacked Ukraine, sparking a chain reaction in the world’s oil markets. Europe spent heavily on liquefied natural gas (LNG) to replace its reliance on Russian gas imports, which caused LNG prices to soar. Higher LNG prices also caused some Asian nations to switch to coal, which increased demand for the carbon-intensive fuel at a time when investment in new mines was slowing. As a result, coal prices have reached all-time highs.
Droughts in China and Europe, which reduced hydro production there, as well as maintenance issues with France’s nuclear fleet have made the world’s energy crisis worse. The world has been able to prevent increased emissions rise this year thanks to two causes. Lockdowns associated with COVID-19 in China have slowed economic expansion and decreased demand for coal and oil. According to the Global Carbon Project, China is the biggest emitter of CO2 in the world, contributing 11.1 billion tons of the 36.4 billion tons that were released in 2021.
In addition, the renewable energy sector has been exploding, led by wind and solar. The IEA predicts a 700 terawatt-hour increase in this year’s renewable energy production. According to Zeke Hausfather, a climate researcher with the payment processing startup Stripe, global emissions are anticipated to plateau in the next years, with decarbonization trends advancing at the same rate as economic development. To put that number in perspective, the total amount of power generated in Canada was 641 TWh in 2021, according to BP PLC. According to him, as cost-effective technology like heat pumps and electric cars continue to advance, the rate of decarbonization will eventually surpass economic growth. The first and simplest step toward resolving climate change, according to him, is simply reaching a peak in world emissions. He continued, “But we need to bring emissions down to zero, which is far tougher.”