Contributed by Robert Lyman @2016

Governments of the Group of 20 (G20) countries have declared their intention to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to address the alleged threat of human-induced catastrophic climate change. With the enormous government and media attention to this issue, it is perhaps easy to lose sight of the actual changes occurring and whether they are making a significant difference in terms of the proclaimed goal of achieving a carbon-free world.


Roger Andrews, a retired geophysicist who writes extensively on climate and related issues on his blog “Energy Matters”, has examined the actual emissions reductions in the G20 over the period 1985 to 2915, using data drawn from the 2016 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. On September 18 2016, he posted an article entitled, “Electricity and Energy in the G29”.


Andrews starts by noting that the G20 governments have fixated on first reducing emissions in the electricity sector and generally have ignored or under-emphasized how to reduce them in the non-electricity sectors. One reason for this is that in most G20 countries, electrical energy is produced and transmitted by government –owned and regulated firms and it has been comparatively easy to legislate changes in this sub-sector, but far more difficult to do so in the non-electricity sectors where there are far more actors and decisions to influence. Further, the generation technologies needed to reduce emissions (nuclear, hydro, wind, solar) already exist in electricity generation, whereas many of the technologies that would be needed to significantly reduce GHG emissions in the non-electricity sectors either do not yet exist or are commercially unproven. Further, many of the energy demand changes governments and environmentalists seek can only occur with the wholehearted participation of the public, much of which remains unconvinced of the need and resists the higher prices and costs involved. Green non-governmental organizations fixate on electricity, which is why the public is “bombarded” with reports of a new solar generation record in Germany or a new wind generation record in Scotland, etc.


Andrews makes a number of distinctions that are often not made in the media – between electricity and total energy consumption, between electricity generation by non-carbon sources and electricity generation by renewable energy sources, and between percentage changes in renewable energy generation and percentage changes in the share of total generation represented by renewable energy. He also offers some innovative approaches to inter-country comparisons. Here are some highlights of his analysis.


  • The best measure of “progress” in reducing the carbon-intensity of electricity generation is not the increase in the production or share of renewables; it is the share held by all non-carbon sources. In this regard, France is the world leader, with 93% of its generation from non-carbon (mainly nuclear) sources. Canada is in second place, with 83% and Brazil in third, with 77%. All other countries are far behind. This point seems lost on most of the Canadian media.
  • If one asks, “How much progress have the G20 countries made towards decarbonizing their electricity sectors since 1985?” the answer is “none”. The low-carbon generation percentage in 1985 was 26.8% and in 1995 it peaked at 28.8%. Since then, the share has declined, with a percentage of 26.5% – 0.3% lower than the 1985 share – in 2015. What has happened has been that low-carbon nuclear has been replaced by wind and solar, which of course does nothing on a net basis to reduce emissions.
  • In 2015, electricity supplied only 41.5% of total energy consumption in the G20 countries. If one could totally decarbonize electricity generation, it would not even halve carbon emissions.
  • If one examines electricity generation by source as a percentage of total energy consumption in individual G20 countries, France takes first place, with electricity generation accounting for 50% of all energy consumption. Canada again is second, with 36% and Brazil third with 34%. In most G20 countries, generation accounts for less than 20% of total energy consumption.
  • Viewed over the period 1985 to 2015, low-carbon energy consumption has increased from 11.2% to 14.4% of total energy consumption in the G20, almost all caused by growth in renewable energy generation. At this rate of growth, total decarbonization of G20 energy will not be achieved until 2250 or thereabouts.


Someone better tell the environmentalists.


Roger Andrews’s article can be read here:



  1. So what has been the actual experience of electric vehicle sales in North America? What has billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies achieved?

    In the United States, by the end of 2015 there were about 320,000 all-electric vehicles on the roads, less than a third of Obama’s goal. In 2015, total electric drive vehicle sales were 498,000, of which plug-ins constituted 114, 000, or 23%. By comparison, total light duty vehicle sales in the United States in 2015 were almost 17,400,000. Electric vehicles (hybrids and all-electric) represent only 2.87% of total light duty vehicle sales. Worse, electric vehicle sales in 2015 were actually down from the 571,000 (including 119,000 plug-ins) achieved in 2014.

    In Canada, there are about 150,000 hybrid light duty vehicles on the roads. The most recent data on electric vehicles sales are to the end of June 2015. At that point in time, there were 14,300 plug-in vehicles registered in Canada, half of which were plug-in hydrids and the other half battery powered all-electric vehicles. The sales of plug-ins during the first half of 2015 were 2,779. Of the total number on the roads, most were small vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt or the Nissan Leaf; there were only 394 Teslas. As of the end of 2014, plug-in electric vehicles had 0.27 of total vehicle market share in Canada — roughly speaking, one out of every 300 cars sold in Canada is an EV. By comparison, in 2015, total light duty vehicle sales in Canada in 2015 were 1,900,000. Plug-ins barely register.

    What about the much hyped “affordable” Tesla coming in 2017? The lower price will help, but it will not change the fact that American and Canadian buyers are showing considerable resistance to all-electric vehicles, preferring the more user-friendly hybrids. Factors such as high prices, uncertain resale values, the inconvenience of plugging the vehicle in, the recharge time and limited range are difficult for consumers to ignore.

    For all the hype, and even assuming that the taxpayer subsidies will continue indefinitely, it seems highly unlikely that electric vehicle sales will rise to even 5% of total light duty vehicle sales for several years. In other words, the internal combustion engine will be the norm for the foreseeable future. We will still need the oil.

    • I think you are ignoring the expansion coming down the pipe with the Tesla model 3. The market is already there being shown with 400,000 preorders. A $24billion market is just the beginning. Tesla has won the wealthy over by giving them a superior car to its gasoline counterpart. Tesla beats the large luxury cars in their own home markets now. The sex appeal is Tesla’s. They are the winners in this class and in the model 3 now. Its not even being manufactured yet and they are winning.
      But here’s what we know: In the next few years, Tesla, Chevy, and Nissan plan to start selling long-range electric cars in the $30,000 range. Other carmakers and tech companies are investing billions on dozens of new models. By 2020, some of these will cost less and perform better than their gasoline counterparts. The aim would be to match the success of Tesla’s Model S, which now outsells its competitors in the large luxury class in the U.S. The question then is how much oil demand will these cars displace? And when will the reduced demand be enough to tip the scales and cause the next oil crisis?

  2. Renewable guy, as usual you ignore the substance of the post and focus on expressing your articles of faith. I suggest that you, for once, read the information provided. In this case, the most compelling factual point that contradicts your faith is that, at present rates of change, the total decarbonization of the G20 countries’s electricity generation will not be achieved for two and a quarter centuries, and that does not even address either the continued use of hydrocarbons in the non-electricity generation sectors or the overall use of hydrocarbons in the non-G20 countries.

    • Hawaii has mandated by law 100% renewable energy by 2045. Republicans want renewable energy now. This is really a no brainer. It will easily go much faster than your projection of 225 years. If it doesn’t, we are in for a very grim future. The rate of hydrocarbon decrease is going to increase rapidly in the future. All that is needed for an oil glut in the world is 2 million electric cars on the road. Batteries are falling in price, production of electric cars are set to escalate like the cell phones did in the past. Driving using clean energy is what the young people want. That demand is going to go on and on. This 225 years is a fossil fuel dream that will never make reality. Otherwise we all lose in this scenario.

      • You are repeating expressions of your faith, not the analysis by anyone who either has examined past trends, like Roger Andrews, or the most authoritative agencies that assess future energy supply, demand and emissions trends, like the International Energy Agency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Exxon/Mobil or British Petroleum. Every single one of the trends that you claim is happening is not occurring at a rate that will eliminate fossil fuels within the next seventy years at least. The promises about market penetration of all-electric cars made by Obama and Angela Merkel have all proven grossly exaggerated. People will not lose in this scenario; they are exercising their free choices to live as they wish and, in the developing countries, to achieve higher standards of living, regardless of what the controls that environmentalists seek to impose. That is reality, not faith.


        This is also a projection into the future that follows things that have already happened in our history. When society adopts something that is superior to what is on the market and needed, the demand curve follows the s shape with a very large accelerate of purchases. Refrigerators for example, cell phones, etc. Renewable energy is experiencing an acceleration of investment around the world. Electric cars also. The link above is about the acceleration of electric cars. In reality, there have been 400,000 deposits of $1000 for the new Tesla Model 3. It is already a huge 24 billion dollar market on the assumption of each car is 42,000 average a peice. Tesla is gearing up with billions being invested to make this happen with the giga factory along with other car makers pouring billions into investing into electrification of automobiles. Money is talking now telling us what the future is going to be. People are excited about the electrification of cars. Tesla has the sizzle right now with the fastest accelerating new production car you can buy.

        According to the Bloomberg study, all it takes is 2 million electric cars on the highway and you have a glut of oil on the market. The future of oil isn’t expensive but actually cheap because it will eventually not be cool to pollute. Also why not own a superior electric car?

      • Conservatively oil is in trouble by about 2030 or a little sooner. Tesla is gearing up to produce 500,000 electric cars a year. Other world car manufacturers are also pouring billions into electrification of cars as I have said earlier. The Bloomberg video makes this very clear what the different markets have done in the past. Rapid change is needed to avoid the worst case scenario that global warming can be. The auto market is well placed to follow rapid acceleration of electric cars.

        First we need an estimate for how quickly sales will grow.

        Last year EV sales grew by about 60 percent worldwide. That’s an interesting number, because it’s also roughly the annual growth rate that Tesla forecasts for sales through 2020, and it’s the same growth rate that helped the Ford Model T cruise past the horse and buggy in the 1910s. For comparison, solar panels are following a similar curve at around 50 percent growth each year, while LED light-bulb sales are soaring by about 140 percent each year.

        Yesterday, on the first episode of Bloomberg’s new animated series Sooner Than You Think, we calculated the effect of continued 60 percent growth. We found that electric vehicles could displace oil demand of 2 million barrels a day as early as 2023. That would create a glut of oil equivalent to what triggered the 2014 oil crisis.

        Compound annual growth rates as high as 60 percent can’t hold up for long, so it’s a very aggressive forecast. BNEF takes a more methodical approach in its analysis today, breaking down electric vehicles to their component costs to forecast when prices will drop enough to lure the average car buyer. Using BNEF’s model, we’ll cross the oil-crash benchmark of 2 million barrels a few years later—in 2028.

      • All four conditions are happening below. Right now battery research has intensified around the world to improve electric cars even more. The company that comes up with the battery superior to all others, is rich for the rest of their lives. Its just not that far off by any means. I own a used electric car and I am reaping the benefits of doing so. Oil companies are following the route of big tobacco and going into underdeveloped countries to hold onto what market they can. Its not a pleasent place to be right now if you are in fossil fuels.

        BNEF’s analysis focuses on the total cost of ownership of electric vehicles, including things like maintenance, gasoline costs, and—most important—the cost of batteries.

        Batteries account for a third of the cost of building an electric car. For EVs to achieve widespread adoption, one of four things must happen:

        1. Governments must offer incentives to lower the costs.
        2. Manufacturers must accept extremely low profit margins.
        3. Customers must be willing to pay more to drive electric.
        4. The cost of batteries must come down.

        The first three things are happening now in the early-adopter days of electric vehicles, but they can’t be sustained. Fortunately, the cost of batteries is headed in the right direction.

      • Even with accelerated electric car adoption, this is not fast enough according to this study to stay under 2* celsius. If the scenario of this article happens we will easily hit the 4* celsius mark making the world a much harder place to live in, in the future. Even 60% acceleration per year will not be enough. Oil stubbornly not going away is a huge mistake on the part of the world society. We need to do more.

        Sell last gasoline car by 2035 to meet climate goals, study says

        The last gasoline-powered car will have to be sold by about 2035 to put the world on track to limit global warming to the most stringent goal set by world leaders last year, a study said on Thursday.

        The CAT is one of the main groups that monitors government actions to restrict global warming and includes researchers who are authors on U.N. climate reports.

        “It’s striking that it’s so early – it means a huge change in the whole automobile industry,” Niklas Höhne, of the NewClimate Institute, told Reuters. The other think-tanks behind the report were Ecofys and Climate Analytics.

        The phase-out is earlier than set by most car makers. Toyota, for instance, has a “zero carbon dioxide emissions challenge” for new vehicles under which it aims to cut emissions from its vehicles by 90 percent by 2050, from 2010 levels.

    • You may wish for more fossil fuel use in the world, but countries get it. They know what to do. Getting off of fossil fuels is difficult, but it will happen.

      7 Charts Show New Renewables Outpacing Rising Demand for First Time

      By Simon Evans

      For the first time ever, investment in new renewables was more than enough to cover rising global electricity demand in 2015, according to the first World Energy Investment report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

      • Renewable guy, You are exacting demonstrating the point made by Roger andrews about environmentalists who focus so much on the use of renewables in electricity generation, and ignore that non-fossil fuel generation from nuclear energy is declining (because of the political efforts of a different tribe of environmentalists), that the electricity sector is only about 20% or less of energy consumption in most countries, and that the technologies to eliminate fossil fuel consumption in the non-electricity sectors are not commercially proven. Read the data, not the propaganda.

      • I live in an area of 60% nuclear power in the United States. I buy 100% renewable energy. That is where my money goes. California will close their remaining plant in 2025 with a plan to replace it with renewables by the time it closes. This is with the blessings of PG+E. New York has chosen to subsidize their nuclear power plant to extend its life. New is one of the leaders of renewable energy in the States. Its a choice. Subsidizing nuclear means more expense to rate payers. Since mature nuclear cannot compete with gov subsidies. Germany will close all its nuclear because the public fears it since Fukishima. They also are leaders in the world of converting to renewable energy. Canada can choose to keep nuclear if they wish. But I have been reading that coal plants are being eliminated from one of the provinces. Coal being the most carbon intensive fossil fuel there is, was a smart choice for the sake of the planet and the people of Canada.

  3. All co2 that enters the atmosphere stays for centuries no matter the amount. The less we pollute the atmosphere with co2, the more sustainable the human race is in living on earth. Boundaries are being set by the science in which the world society needs to catch up to the knowledge. The faster the United States and Canada progress in sustainability, the better off our future generations will be.

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