Extreme temperatures around the globe drove a sharp acceleration in both energy demand and carbon emissions last year, oil giant BP* said on Tuesday, warning that the world risks losing the battle against climate change.
While 2018 saw further growth in renewable power sources such as wind and solar, continued growth in oil, gas and coal consumption meant that overall, the world’s energy mix remained “depressingly” unchanged, BP Chief Economist Spencer Dale said in the company’s benchmark 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy.
The 2.9 percent rise in energy demand in 2018, the fastest rate since 2010, deals a blow to global efforts to meet the 2015 United Nations-backed Paris climate agreement to limit global warming by sharply reducing carbon emissions by the end of the century.
And as energy consumption grew, greenhouse gas emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels – which account for around two-thirds of total emissions – rose last year by two percent.
“It’s clear we’re on an unstable path with carbon emissions rising at their fastest rate since 2011,” Dale said in a briefing ahead of the release of the report.
London-based BP and its rival oil and gas companies have faced growing pressure from investors and climate activists to meet the Paris climate-change goals.
Earlier this year, BP agreed to increase its disclosure on emissions, set targets to reduce them, and show how future investments meet the Paris goals. But many investors and activists say it needs to do more.
Energy consumption has historically been closely linked to economic growth.
But while global economic activity cooled last year, energy demand growth was driven by a sharp increase in abnormally hot and cold days around the world, particularly in China, the US and India, which in turn led consumers to use more energy for cooling and heating.
Parts of the northern hemisphere were hit by freezing cold weather fronts last winter, only to face record temperatures in summer that resulted in vast fires and droughts.
In the US, the combined number of heating and cooling days was the highest since the 1950s, BP said.
“There is a growing mismatch between societal demands for action on climate change and the actual pace of progress,” Dale said.
The BP review showed an increase in oil and gas production, driven largely by the rapid expansion of US shale output.
While the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers continue to cut back oil production in an effort to boost prices, US drillers are rapidly increasing output, particularly from the prolific Permian Basin in western Texas and New Mexico.
As a result, global oil supply rose 2.2 million barrels per day, more than double its historical average.
The US boom also accounted for nearly half of an unprecedented increase in global natural gas supplies, which increased by five percent in 2018.
The increase in US oil and gas production was the largest-ever annual increase by any country, BP said.
But renewable energy also grew by 14.5 percent, nearing the record increase in 2017. The share of renewables in power generation nevertheless remained mostly flat, accounting for around one third of the increase.