BP Energy Outlook 2035: Room for Improvement

BP's Projection of the CO2 Emissions out to 2035. We can take this is a graph showing what will happen if we just let things continue as they are. Graph extracted from the BP Energy Outlook 2035: see text for link details.

BP’s prediction of the CO2 Emissions out to 2035. We can take this as a graph showing what will happen if we let things continue as they are. The International Energy Agency consider this a trajectory towards a catastrophic 6 C rise in global temperature. The dotted line shows the emissions path required to keep atmospheric CO2 concentrations below 450ppm. Graph extracted from the BP Energy Outlook 2035.

BP have recently published their Energy Outlook for 2035 and despite its clarity and thoroughness, it makes grim reading. Depressingly, I find it completely believable.

Cutting a very long story short, BP see energy supplies expanding to meet the needs of people in the developing world, in itself, a ‘Good Thing’.

At the conclusion of their presentation they ask how will the world ‘meet the global energy challenge‘? Will energy be…

  • Sufficient and available? ‘Yes’ – they answer − because of new energy sources and efficiency improvements
  • Secure and reliable? ‘Yes and No’ – they answer – it will improve for some, but remain a concern for others
  • Sustainable? Room for improvement

It is the glib understatement of this last remark which I find numbing. Continuing to increase the rate of carbon dioxide emissions to 45 billion tonnes every year does not represent ‘room for improvement‘. It represents a global catastrophe.

At the end of this article are links where you can investigate the various parts of the report. It is fascinating, and a great resource, but I will leave you to investigate by yourself. Here I want to ask a simple question: could it be wrong? Is there anything which could stabilise annual carbon dioxide emissions or even reduce them?

This report is about ‘the future’ and so by definition, we just don’t know what is going to happen. The report makes many assumptions and inevitably many of them will be wrong.

However the key assumption underlying all others is that global markets will continue to operate to meet global energy needs. And the report assumes that there will be no intergovernmental action on climate emissions.

If their assumption holds, then there is every chance that what happens in the next 20 years will be something like their prediction. Given the previous success rate of intergovernmental agreements I think we have to conclude this is fairly likely.

The International Energy Agency have their own World Energy Outlook involving various scenarios, three of which are summarised below.

  • The 6 °C Scenario (6DS) is an extension of current trends i.e. just what BP predict. Average global temperature rise is projected to be at least 6°C in the long term.
  • The 4 °C Scenario (4DS) takes into account recent pledges made by countries to limit emissions. This is an ambitious scenario that requires significant changes in policy and technologies.
  • The 2°C Scenario (2DS) is an emissions trajectory that would give an 80% chance of limiting average global temperature increase to 2°C. It  is broadly consistent with the World Energy Outlook 450 Scenario through 2035.

In my opinion, 2DS is already unachievable, 4 DS is the best we can hope for with unprecedented intergovernmental agreements, and 6 DS – which is where BP think we are heading – would be a disaster for humankind.

The only way I can see to avoid the catastrophic path charted by BP is by intergovernmental agreement to restrict carbon dioxide emissions.

This will have to allow for growth in non-OECD emissions and so it will have to require that countries like the UK who have emitted carbon dioxide freely for a century restrict their emissions dramatically.

I am not in any kind of denial of how hard it will be to “restrict our emissions dramatically”, but the alternative is a path of insanity.

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BP Energy Outlook Links

  • This page is the main page for the Energy Outlook including a video summary by Christof Rühl, BP’s chief economist.
  • This page contains links to a pdf booklet, Excel tables, and a presentation available as a Powerpoint or pdf.
  • This page contains a link to BP’s statistical energy review – a valuable summary of current data

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