Energy-related carbon emissions are expected to decline in the next decade, only to pick up again in the 2030s due to energy demand, according to a new report.
The data, released Wednesday by the US Energy Information Agency, projects that by 2050 energy-related carbon emissions will be only 4% lower than 2019 levels.
The agency made these projections based on current economic trends and policies that regulate the energy industry in the US. If nothing changes in the way the country combats carbon emissions, 30 years from now we will essentially be in the same place we are right now.
This prediction also comes in sharp contrast with the recommendations that were laid out in the landmark 2018 report released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which argues countries should take significant action to lower carbon emissions in order to avoid the catastrophic effects of global warming.
The report says global carbon emissions would need to decline by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero around 2050.
The energy report points to an increase in economic growth in the US after 2030, which is the biggest driver in carbon dioxide emissions. Economic growth will lead to more demand in energy, particularly in the transportation and industrial sectors, and this will in turn power the need for fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels — including coal, oil and natural gas — account for about 65% of domestic greenhouse gas emissions.
Energy demand will “outweigh improvements in efficiency,” the report predicts.
US greenhouse emissions fell to an estimated 2.1% in 2019 after spiking the previous year, according to the private research firm Rhodium Group.
A drop in the use of coal was the driving factor in the decrease of emissions last year. The use of coal to generate energy produces far more heat-trapping carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels.
Overall, the US has achieved a 0.9% average annual reduction in carbon emissions since 2005.
But those cuts will need to triple over the next six years, averaging 2.8% to 3.2% less each year to meet the targets initially established in the 2015 Paris Agreement, the Rhodium report said.
The accord aims to keep the global temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Trump administration announced the US was going to formally withdraw from it, and the process is expected to be completed this November.
At current rates, the world could reach the 1.5 degree C threshold as early as 2030, the UN climate change report said. Global temperatures have already warmed about 1 degrees C. The UN has since warned that the 197 countries that signed the Paris accord must strengthen its commitments to cut global greenhouse emissions.