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« Saving the world with fossil fuels | Main | Labour's energy wheeze »

The environment correspondent's standards

The FT reports that carbon dioxide emissions remained steady in 2014, despite the global economy having continued to expand.

One of the reasons is apparently China's energy mix:

China has cut its use of coal, one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions, and installed more hydroelectricity, wind and solar power.

Now the FT article is written by Environment Correspondent Pilita Clark, so claims about the involvement of wind and solar need careful examination. I think a little data is required, which, thanks to Reuters, I am able to bring you:

The same story emerges from BP's research. To be fair, Clark points to other factors, which are rather more plausible - energy efficiency measures for example - but in essence her article looks as if it exhibits the normal environment correspondent standards of truthiness.

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Reader Comments (79)

It's a mantra. Keep chanting wind and solar power and adding it into the mix wherever possible.

Mar 13, 2015 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Hanwell

Why don't environmental correspondents ever co-author pieces with economic correspondents or science correspondents?

If I was their editor I would want additional expertise on these stories - and on economic stories in the energy industry. It goes both ways.

But they seem to be in their own little bubble.

Mar 13, 2015 at 10:40 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

So China's gas consumption is due to nearly quadruple over 12 years, according to Reuters, while hydro will almost double, no doubt flooding dozens of rather nice ecological sites.
It takes a special kind of journalist to turn that into a plug for wind and solar.

Mar 13, 2015 at 10:44 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Most people I talk to, if they have anything to say about it at all, think that China is going all out for "renewables" (i.e. wind and solar).

I don't blame them, given the deluge of media misinformation, but it's so far from the truth you have to wonder when they'll wake up.

Mar 13, 2015 at 10:47 AM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

I noticed from the chart that '*' meant forecasted. So really, the whole piece was a load of '*****'

Mar 13, 2015 at 10:54 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

"Carbon dioxide emissions remained steady in 2014"

Does that really mean that the CO2 emissions monitored at Mauna Loa have stopped rising? I don't believe it for one moment. If indeed the CO2 concentrations @ Mauna Loa continued to rise, this is another nail in the coffin of the climate environmentalists and politicians. It would show that whatever we do will have no effect on the natural CO2 balance.

Unfortunately, I have no way on checking the 2014 Mauna Loa CO2 curve. Perhaps someone else can?

Mar 13, 2015 at 10:58 AM | Registered CommenterAlbert Stienstra

The chart is also about % share rather than absolute value

eg. a 10% fall in the proportion in an expanding market could be consistent with the absolute coal tonnage not changing at all or indeed growing.

Mar 13, 2015 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterTDK

And how much CO2 is the byproduct of PV panel and windmill manufacture?

Mar 13, 2015 at 11:01 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

As far as I can see on

there is absolutely no change in the CO2 curve in 2014. So what does it mean that CO2 emissions remained steady in 2014? Just that they rose steadily?

Mar 13, 2015 at 11:14 AM | Registered CommenterAlbert Stienstra

China has cut its use of coal, one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions, and installed more hydroelectricity, wind and solar power.

According to the chart, China has cut its use of coal from about 67% (by Mark I eyeball) around 2002-2003 to about 69% in 2010. Quite an accomplishment.

Also, if I read the chart right, that's relative percent. In other words, China could still increase its actual usage of coal in absolute terms (and associated CO2 emission), but as long as the percentage of energy produced by other sources such as gas and hydro increases faster than coal, the relative percent of energy produced by coal will decrease (as shown in the graph).

Mar 13, 2015 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil R

From the BP link

+ China’s energy mix continues to evolve with coal’s dominance declining from 68% today to 51% in 2035 and natural gas more than doubling to 12%; oil’s share is unchanged around 18%.
+ China’s fossil fuel out put continues to rise with increases in natural gas (+200%) and coal (+19%) more than offsetting declines in oil (-3%)

ie. the decline in coal as a percentage is more than offsite by the increase in overall energy usage = 19% growth in coal.

Mar 13, 2015 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterTDK


I think my point is the same as yours, but I posted before I saw your comment (note to self: read other comments first).

Mar 13, 2015 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil R

Cut its use of coal?

from the charts it looks like China uses coal for about 70% of 120 units now. In 2020 it will use coal for 60% of 300 units. That is an increase of about 85 to 180, more than double current coal use.

Mar 13, 2015 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Pilita Clark should look at some statistics on world sales of passenger cars and commercial vehicles. She might want to get herself a large box of Kleenex tissues first though. Then, of course, the oil price is still down. Neither China nor India nor Saudi Arabia is likely to ride to the rescue of the environmental correspondents guild. They are still trying to win CO2 battles, knowing their war is lost.

I see nothing but misery for them in Paris. Though I suppose they could always try parading their act as an audition for Les Folies Bergère.

Mar 13, 2015 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

As MD of a company involved in measuring emissions to atmosphere from power stations I can attest that both India and China are still commissioning coal fired power stations as quick as they can possibly build them. There is no sign of a let up.

Mar 13, 2015 at 12:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Coe

Utterly dishonest reporting. China and India are opening new coal fired plants by the dozen every year. How can they not be using more coal?

Good thing too, speaking as an Aussie whose prosperity is underpinned by their ever increasing purchases of the stuff, which we are fortunate enough to have a vast supply of.

Mar 13, 2015 at 12:29 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

The question should really be asked of the editors: Why do they choose to allow inaccurate and deceptive reporting on energy and environment to be published whcih tarnish the reputation of their publication?

Mar 13, 2015 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Can't read the article because it seems to require a subscription, but I noticed the subtitle to the article is:

First non-recession halt to CO2 growth for 40 years

Which I take to mean that there is no increase in the growth rate, not that CO2 emissions aren't growing year on year. They are just growing at the same rate as previous years. If that rate were defined as a % then CO2 emissions are still increasing on an accelerating curve...

Meanwhile, in other news, global temperatures remain flat.

Mar 13, 2015 at 12:51 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Bishop - your chart from Reuters is 5 years OOD and doesn't bear on this report. Always, if possible, refer to source - in this case it is a preliminary press release from the IEA annual report 2014, due for release in June which will "provide decision makers with much needed momentum to forge a global climate deal in Paris...". So that is the angle on the spin the headline being "for the first time greenhouse gas emissions are decoupled from economic growth" - in their dreams perhaps! You can actually check how this has been spun but it will cost you Euro 132. I will wait, but by June the meme will have entered the lexicon. Perhaps the intent is to pretend that China and India are cutting emissions despite their protestations to the contrary or possibly that their emissions no longer matter!

Mar 13, 2015 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenese2

Strange, I don't see either wind or solar AT ALL on that chart....

Can Ms Clark clarify where she got this information from - or was it just in her head..?

Mar 13, 2015 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Your Grace,

You have discovered the reason why a career in investment sales can be so lucrative. A truly mind-boggling number of people can be made to believe anything.

Rules For Forecasting:
• "Make lots and lots of predictions; the law of averages says some of them will actually turn out to be right."
• "If you ever happen to be right about something, don't ever let anybody forget it."
• "When forecasting provide either a number or a date— but never both."

Mar 13, 2015 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterDiogenes

Eyeballing it, I get at best a 3ppt reduction in fossil fuel use over the five years 2015-2020. Assuming Chinese nominal GDP grows at 10% p.a. and the energy/GDP mix is unchanged, we get a 40% fossil fuel usage increase in absolute terms. One would expect some improvement in the energy/GDP ratio, so let's be extremely generous on this pleasant Spring day and say a one-third fossil fuel usage increase.

The acceptance - even encouragement - by the warmists of the significant expansion in developing country CO2 emissions is one of the key pointers that this whole thing is much, much more about the politics than about the planet and The Science.

Mar 13, 2015 at 1:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterigsy

Shouldn't articles written by Environmental Correspondents, particularly in the Financial Times, have a Government Wealth Warning?

Or should papers be forced to print such articles on pages of recycled Green paper. They could be pulled out of circulation by newsagents, for immediate composting, to reduce further waste. Stress induced heart attacks may also be reduced, amongst those readers capable of thinking. This could be regarded as an investment.

Mar 13, 2015 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

What scumbag champagne leftists always forget to mention is how THEY would feed the 7B people
and give them THEIR living standards (which they faux-earn from coercive entitlements off our back)

Kolchoz/Sovchoz style farms and factories were not known to run energy efficient..not at all.
The only thing efficient there was the applause after lefty waffle speeches from the president.

Now I know lefty champagne scumbags have come to display memory loss at their once coveted eternally
peddled concepts, and now frame themselves (with their entitlements for their non services which they pseudo earn off our backs) is called cherry picked memory loss..

The cherry should be the emblem of lefty media pseudo reporting.

Mar 13, 2015 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnd Then There's a Marxist

Don't those charts imply that coal consumption is projected to more than double by 2020?? That is, a moderately declining share of a rapidly increasing total.

So how does that translate into lower CO2 contribution?

Also, are Chinese emissions really a large enough share of global emissions to be able to move the total around?

Mar 13, 2015 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

M Courtney said " ...If I was their editor I would want additional expertise on these stories"
The problem is the editors are even less informed than the journalists

Mar 13, 2015 at 2:09 PM | Registered Commenterdavidchappell

And Then There's Marxist

Mass deaths through thirst, hunger and disease, are what Environmentalists rely on, to prove they are right.

What they actually prove, is how wrong the Left are.

Environmentalists believe only the Left, will remain standing. Probably because their chairs will have biodegraded

Mar 13, 2015 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

I'm not convinced, Bish, that you're right to criticise Ms Clark's "standards of truthiness". She was reporting on an interview with Fatih Birol, chief economist (and soon to be executive director) of the International Energy Agency - and, although it's not entirely clear, I read most of what's written in the article as reflecting what he had to say rather than her opinions. As the article says, the IEA will publish its findings in June: perhaps we should wait until then before coming to any serious conclusions. In any case, Birol added an important caveat:

... the halt in emissions growth could prove just “a temporary bright point in an otherwise alarming trend”, he said
This is especially important in fast-growing economies that are home to the 1.2bn people without access to electricity globally, including India.

Many plan to build highly polluting coal-fired power plants, locking in the risk of rising emissions for decades.

Mar 13, 2015 at 4:01 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Albert Stienstra (11:14 AM): here are the Mauna Loa charts. Not much evidence of emissions stalling there - or am I missing something?

Mar 13, 2015 at 4:25 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

And I thought we had to wait until 2030 for China's emissions to peak.

Mar 13, 2015 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Geckko: "are Chinese emissions really a large enough share of global emissions to be able to move the total around?"
Per this comment at Climate Etc., Chinese CO2 emissions are roughly 30% of global. And increasing, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of global.

Mar 13, 2015 at 4:36 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

18+ years of steady but raised temperatures while CO2 rises. Looks like temperature causes CO2 to me.

Mar 13, 2015 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

ssat, please don't confuse climate scientists with facts. It makes their porky pies, and wallets, grow larger.

Curious phenomena, unexplained by conventional science.

Mar 13, 2015 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

It would make sense for the Chinese government, to report coal consumption figures, as required by the IPCC.

It keeps everybody happy, to keep people in the dark. People living in the dark, wouldn't give a rice flail for the IPCC. A pity, because it would seem a fair exchange.

Mar 13, 2015 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Albert Stienstra: I see you'd already provided a link to the Mauna Loa data - apologies. They show atmospheric CO2 levels continuing to increase over 2014; and so would seem to completely knock this FT/IEA story on the head. But no one seems interested. As I said above: am I missing something?

Mar 13, 2015 at 5:56 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

If the Mauna Loa Data shows CO2 levels in the atmosphere continuing to increase whilst the CO2 emissions are static (or falling), this might imply that human CO2 emissions impact on Mauna Loa concentrations might not be as direct as predicted.

Alternatively it might be due to inertia in the system and we may have to wait for the system to equilibrate before we see any effect.

Mar 13, 2015 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

I did encounter the following yesterday:

The chart of additional Chinese capacity is offered with no comment on the likely real contribution to electricity supply from the different sources. Chinese wind power seems to have a particularly low capacity factor - around 17%, and solar is below 10%. The big surge in hydro comes from

You don't make a new one of those every year.

Mar 13, 2015 at 6:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

The FT and BBC reports are based on a new IEA claim about 2014 energy consumption and mix. EXCEPT the IEA is wrong. The up to date Keeling Curve is available at Click on the two year to see March 2013- March 2015. Both the seasonal max and min were higher in 2014 than 2013, and will be higher again in 2015 from the look of it. Apparently nobody in these institutions bothered to go check the simple facts one google click away. More erroneous 'official' information amplified by lazy MSM dunderheads. Poor show all around.

Mar 13, 2015 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

Arthur Dent, could be that all the talk about global warming is making Mauna Loa burp a bit, out of anxiety.

Very unsettling, is climate science.

Mar 13, 2015 at 7:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Rud Istvan @ 6.59 (and Robin Guernier) : you are missing the significance; the Keeling Curve is the atmospheric concentration of CO2 (in real time). The IEA paper is based on anthropological energy emissions, static since 2013 and up 0.02% since 2012 (32.3bt - 31.7bt). Emissions and temperature static, CO2 level up. This headline looks like an own goal to me. No wonder Birol stuck in a few caveats, people may think that we have already done enough!

Mar 13, 2015 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenese2

Robin Guenier: "am I missing something?"
CO2 concentration continued to increase, but the report states that *emissions* were the same as the previous year. That suggests that the *rate* of CO2 increase would be similar to last year's, not that the concentrations would be the same.
Still, as the emission rate has generally been increasing along with energy consumption, a year-over-year "no change" in emissions is unexpected.

P.S. diogenese2- change from 31.7 to 32.3 is an increase of ~2%, not 0.02%. /nitpick

Mar 13, 2015 at 7:39 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Arthur Dent: good points. Thanks.

Mar 13, 2015 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier
No slowing at Mauna Loa, as far as I can see.

Mar 13, 2015 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

Frankly, I'm very suspicious of these statistics. The UK has only just published its finalised emissions statistics for 2013 last month:

Provisional data only go as far as Q3 2014:

Yet the IEA are clairvoyant...

Mar 13, 2015 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Can't read the article because it seems to require a subscription

Mar 13, 2015 at 12:51 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Mar 13, 2015 at 9:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterclipe

The USA seems to be on a similar publication schedule to the UK:

Meanwhile Bloomberg is also in the statistical forecasting business:

Total carbon emissions in the world’s second-biggest economy dropped 2 percent in 2014 compared with the previous year, the first drop since 2001, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimate based on preliminary energy demand data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Mar 13, 2015 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Ever since they started measuring atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa in 1958, the readings have been going up at more or less a linear rate, whereas human CO2 emissions have risen exponentially in that same period. The correlation between the two seems fairly weak to me, though I don't claim to be a statistician.

Mar 13, 2015 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke in Central Illinois

From the ft article

There have only been three times in four decades when emissions fell or stopped rising, the agency said: after the oil price shock and US recession in the early 1980s; in 1992 after the collapse of the former Soviet Union; and in 2009 during the global financial crisis.

Ahh! The good old days.

Mar 13, 2015 at 10:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterclipe

One year's data the same as the last and the BBC (R4) seems to be having an orgasm about how our efforts to tackle climate change are "working". Yet the BBC seems unable to recognise 18 years of the "pause".

Mar 13, 2015 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie

To me it looks like creative accounting to smooth the way for fooling some of the people all of the time at Paris later in the year:

The growth in global carbon emissions stalled last year, according to data from the International Energy Agency.

It marks the first time in 40 years that annual CO2 emissions growth has remained stable, in the absence of a major economic crisis, the agency said.

Annual global emissions remained at 32 gigatonnes in 2014, unchanged from the previous year.

But the IEA warned that while the results were "encouraging", this was "no time for complacency".

"This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one," said IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol.

"It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth."

The article is supported by this quote which also seems dubious to me:

An important factor could be that China's coal consumption fell in 2014, driven by their efforts to fight pollution, use energy more efficiently and deploy renewables”

Prof Corinne Le Quere
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

This all seems deeply suspiciously timing to me:

The Paris-based organisation said that in the 40 years it had been collecting data on carbon dioxide emissions, annual emissions had stalled or fallen only three other times, which were all associated with global downturns:

- after the US recession in the early 1980s
- in 1992 after the collapse of the former Soviet Union
- in 2009 during the global financial crisis

Full details of the IEA report will be released in June, ahead of UN negotiations to sign a new international climate change agreement at talks in Paris in December.

No mention of the 'hottest year, evah' - 2014.

Mar 13, 2015 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

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