One of the many ironies of the climate crisis is that as temperatures change and extreme weather becomes more common, we need more energy to maintain comfort. Hotter summers have driven an increase in power-hungry air conditioning and cooler temperatures in some places – which may be driven by the melting Arctic – raise demand for heating.
BP’s report that carbon emissions from energy use have risen at the fastest rate in nearly a decade reflects those forces, as well as continuing demand from a rising global population and expanding industries.
The effect is already discernible in the atmosphere. Last week, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography reported that carbon dioxide levels in the air leapt this year by the second highest amount in their records, to 414.8 parts per million, at the famous observatory in Mauna Loa where CO2 has been measured continuously since 1958.
We cannot afford many more years like this. Every year of high emissions adds to the stock of carbon in the air, bringing us closer to the 450ppm of carbon dioxide that scientists warn could tip us into catastrophe. The IPCC’s stark warnings last year showed how dangerous a rise of 1.5C would be, and on current terms we are headed for an even bigger rise.
A decade ago, when emissions were last rising this fast, the financial crisis and global recession led to an unexpected pause in carbon emissions.
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