Asia Drove Global CO2 Growth for 20 Years and Asia Growing 30 More Years

There are annual announcements of all global greenhouse gas emissions and some people anticipate those numbers to see if reductions efforts have stopped the increase in emissions. Here I will discuss how the increase in global emissions is a far simpler story and how big the actions need to be to move the needle, slow the increases or actually decrease growth.

The tiny efforts have not had much effect. What has had an effect?

The rise of China sped up the increase in global emissions to +3% per year from 2000 to 2009. The world went from 25 billion ton per year of CO2 emissions in 2000 to about 32 billion tons per year in 2008 and 36 billion tons per year in 2018. The world dropped from 3% per year emissions growth to 0.9% in the 2010-2018 period. This was because China stopped rapidly expanding coal use to power growth. The world is still projected to increase by 0.6% in 2019.

The rest of the world outside of Asia has been emitting about 15-17 billion tons of CO2 per year (2000-2018). This has been relatively flat. North America and Europe peaked at about 14 billion tons of CO2 per year and are down to about 12.6 billion tons per year of CO2. If there was a complete elimination of coal in the US and Europe with natural gas, nuclear and/or renewables then the US and Europe could get to about 8-11 billion tons per year. 11 billion if it was with natural gas.

It would take converting all cars and trucks from oil power to electric to offset the expected increase in emissions from increase economic growth in Asia. The power for the vehicles would need to be from additional nuclear or renewables to maximize and get almost all of the offset. All global transportation is currently about 7 billion tons per year of CO2 and Asia is projected to add 3 billion tons per year of CO2 from now to 2030 and another 3-5 billion tons per year from 2030 to 2040.

China went from 5 billion tons of CO2 emission per year in 2000 to 11 billion tons per year of CO2 emissions in 2010. This was a pretty study move in those years. China’s coal usage increased from 1.5 billion tons per year in 2000 to 3.8 billion tons per year in 2010.

This was an average increase of 230 million tons per year. Burning 1 ton of coal generates 2.86 tons of CO2. The 230 million tons of coal increase was about 660 million tons of CO2.

The rest of China’s economy was scaling as well. There was a massive increase in cars, trucks and buildings. China is now at 13.5 billion tons of CO2 per year emissions and might hold flat or increase to 14.5 billion tons per year. China is still going to increase energy demand and grow its economy but they are using non-coal growth.

China was about 66% of Asia’s CO2 emissions growth for 20 years. China could flatten out emissions while still growing overall economic activity at a more moderate pace. However, India and the rest of Asia are on track to add 3 billion tons per year of emissions over the next ten years and would need to get vastly more efficient to avoid adding even more from 2030 to 2040.

India’s coal imports increased 19% in 2018. India is projected to add 1.3 to 1.5 billion tons per year of emissions based upon current policies. The other rising countries in Asia (Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines etc…) are collectively of comparable size and will make similar economic growth.

India has been consistently adding about 50-80 million tons per year of CO2 emissions and increased 2 billion tons of CO2 per year (1 to 3 billion) over 30 years. India’s economy is reaching the major global impact phase. India is adding about 110 million tons per year in CO2 emissions.

There was a dip in the global CO2 emissions in 2008 and a pause in 2009.

What happened there? These were the years when the US had its biggest shifts from coal to natural gas. The entire rise of natural gas fracking helped move the US to reduce its annual emissions by 800 million tons per year of CO2.

19 thoughts on “Asia Drove Global CO2 Growth for 20 Years and Asia Growing 30 More Years”

  1. The Allam cycle also looks interesting, but there may still be some unresolved issues with the structural materials. Nitrogen is removed in advance, so the burn is with pure oxygen. Then most of the water is condensed out of the exhaust, and the CO2 is compressed to a supercritical state. The excess CO2 is syphoned off, where it can be sequestered (or used some other way), and the rest is cycled back as the primary working fluid. Should work with either natural gas or gasified coal.

  2. Yes, I remembered that later. But if you’re going to just pump it underground, that may not matter much.

    If you do want to separate them, you compress the stream up to 30 atm (a little below nitrogen’s critical point), which reduces the volume and pushes water’s boiling point to 230 C. Run it through a distillation tower (or cycle it through some other cooling apparatus) to remove the water. Then compress further above 34 atm, where nitrogen becomes supercritical, and remove that in a similar way. At 30 atm, CO2 has a liquid phase below -5 C, so you could also separate it without further compression, but it takes more aggressive cooling.

    Or actually, if you compress above 34 atm right away, you could (maybe?) remove the supercritical nitrogen first, without any cooling. Then compressing to 74 atm makes the CO2 supercritical. But anyway, the amount of gas to process could be an issue.

  3. Turning it into carbonates did cross my mind, but lime doesn’t work for that. It starts from calcium carbonate, so you end up with as much CO2 byproduct as you turn back into carbonate. NaOH works a little better, but we’d end up with way too much HCl or Cl2 from the chlor-alkali process that we’d have no use for. And we don’t have anywhere near enough chlor-alkali plants for that. suggests using magnesium silicate minerals.

    There was some work on turning CO2 to carbon nanotubes or other carbon forms. Quite recently there was a paper on direct electrochemical conversion, with oxygen as byproduct. But that stuff is still in early R&D, and takes energy, which has to come from somewhere. Definitely not from the coal plant – you’d end up at an energy loss.

    Same story with turning it into synthetic fuels. You’d end up at an energy loss.

    Seems like pumping it underground is easiest. As you say, it’s not ground finely enough, but making the CO2 supercritical should speed up the reaction rate. And it doesn’t actually have to react at all, according to . Cost to consumer estimated at under $0.05/kWh.

  4. You forgot that 80% of the exhaust gas will be nitrogen. So that’s a big separation issue right there.

    If it was pure CO2 + H2O I’ll agree that capturing the CO2 would be easy. Though actually disposing of that CO2 is another problem as Goat discusses.

  5. If your only goal is to generate power at the lowest possible cost then you don’t turn on your pollution control equipment. And that has been a big issue in China where coal power plant get away with not using their pollution control equipment due to corruption. Could be the same in India.

  6. A fellow unexpectedly ended up at St. Michael’s daïs, having been struck by a lightning-bolt. 

    The queue trudges along, and he eventually comes before the podium.  

    St. Mike sez, “It looks like the balance-pan-of-God ain’t in your favor, Jeff”.  
    Down to Hades Jeff’s eternal soul plies.  

    Reaching the reception-and-viewing room of Hêll’s Big Arena, Jeff looks upon the scene.  Everyone is drinking piping hot Starbucks coffee and chatting it up.  

    Jeffie sez to the old fellow with a tri-pointed pike, “wow! Hêll doesn’t look bad!” … 
    The cloven scorch says, “perhaps … but its back to standing on your head in shît after the break!”

    Except for the HUGE amount of CO₂ captured, it wouldn’t be much of a problem.  

    Ah… Err… Ummmmm… YAH!  

    Captured SO₂ is usually combined with carbonate rock (think worthless limestone), to neutralize the acids. Generating … wait for it … MORE CO₂ gas in exchange.  

    Calcined lime also works.  
    AKA “limestone/dolomite heated to drive off CO₂, leaving the oxide/hydroxide”.  
    Oops… more CO₂.  

    But hey, lime combines readily all the CO₂ captured.  
    Leaving only the byproduct of making that lime.  

    Alternatively fairly abundant mafic and metamorphic rocks when ground up finely enough, and given long enough to react, will take CO₂ up and convert to other stable, non-toxic minerals. But the processes tend to take years. Or decades, if not ground finely enough. 

    Just Saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  7. True, but on the other hand, once you’ve removed the sulfur and nitrogen oxides and the particulates, almost all of the rest is CO2 and water vapor. Those are pretty easy to separate (if that’s even necessary), compress, and send downstream to whatever processing needs to happen next. On 2nd thought, this doesn’t even require any of the CO2 capture technologies that would be needed to extract atmospheric CO2. The main problem is what to do with all that CO2 once it’s captured (that and the politics of getting it done).

  8. They certainly can double coal burning. New coal plants in Japan (post Fukushima) output the same amount of air pollution as USA natural gas plants. They’re really quite clean. The scrubbing equipment is neither cheap nor free to run, but it is there if somebody is willing to pay for it.

  9. Hit that nail on the head!

    I believe that one of the greatest mendacities of the modern global-economy glee club is their institutionalized myopia regarding the indirect export of GHG emissions to other global economies, as a proportion of their imports.  

    When get get plastics made by China or Taiwan or S. Korea, and they in turn make those plastics from coal tar, petroleum refining and natural gas, well … tho’ it ain’t conventional to include the fossil-ore inputs into OUR carbon emissions rankings, in a way, the carbon is really earmarked for us.  

    It would change the numbers of ALL countries around the world substantially, to account for carbon by ultimate consumer, not just all the technologies leading to the consumers’ product purchases. 

    But it is a way-harder, and way-more-pölïtically-squishy problem to calculate. 
    Hence, why not done.

    Just Saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  10. Your reply is fairly stated. There’s just a difference in quantities that makes CO₂ scrubbing (… capture, sequestration, stockpiling, repurposing, all that) so much more costly than say particulates or SO₂/N₂O₄.

    The average S in coal varies from less than 0.5% for highest quality anthracite to over 4% for sub-bituminous and lignite varieties. Without precision, it is therefore fair to estimate 0.5% to 4% of the effluent combustion-gas will be SO₂. And since coal is technically a hydrocarbon ranging from 90% or higher C for anthracite to less than 70% for sub-bituminous/lignite varieties, well … 90% to 70% of the effluent is CO₂. The N₂O₄ part is harder to estimate, but depends a lot on the temperature of combustion, and the stoichiometric injection of atmospheric oxygen in relation to the combustable constituents of the coal-stuff being burned. Typically parts-per-thousand. 

    Thing is … doesn’t take a genius to:

    90% C ÷ 0.5% S = 180× more carbon than sulfur … anthracite
    70% C ÷ 4.0% S = 18× more carbon than sulfur … lignite

    Figuring therefore that the carbon-capture problem is anywhere from 20× to 200× “the size” as the sulfur-and-nitric-oxide capture math.  

    Just putting it into perspective.
    GoatGuy ✓

  11. While not so easy to produce, it would be interesting to see some data on how much of China output is due to the outsourcing of production from US and EU.
    And how much of the CO2 is transport from China?

  12. About time regulators started treating CO2 as a “pollutant” too (sort of*), and demanded scrubbing that too. There’s been a number of CO2 capture technologies suggested and demonstrated. It’ll cost some, but those other oxides scrubbers aren’t free either. And other CO2 solutions probably aren’t much cheaper.

    * CO2 is plant food, but I’m sure plants will do just fine with the current levels. There’s no need to add more. Same for anyone fearing an ice age.

  13. What a SAD site. Click on USA, (colored in their map in grey, supposedly indicating over–4oC world climate outlook due to existing and projected national greenhouse-gas mitigation laws, strategies and policies…), and the detail-break-out graph doesn’t even agree with their Hair-On-Fire assessment.  

    At all.

    The United States of America is growing, population-and-industry wise. Population growth both from reproduction and from immigration, both legal and not-so-legal. Doesn’t matter HOW you cut the mustard, but an increased population WILL require supporting amounts of energy production and industrial output uptick. Nature of economies.  

    Secondly, based solely on the Trump Administration’s opting-out of the Paris Accord, the graphs have been adjusted for the next 25 years to show US GHG output recitivism. But actually “to be a little-bit fair”, basically flat-line output. Given the growth of the REST OF THE WORLD, this isn’t bad, at all.  

    Lousy site.

    Just Saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  14. Mark … if we are being fair, the assertion that neither India or China can double their coal-burning due to pollutive emission, is highly dependent on whether upcoming (and preëxisting) coal-fired power (and industrial heat) generation has high-quality, 24–7–365 particulate capture and SO₂ + N₂O₄ (sulfur dioxide and nitric oxides gasses) scrubbing. 

    As an example, no present-day American, German, British or Italian coal-fired power plant emits even ¹⁄₁₀₀₀th the particulates or ¹⁄₁₀₀th the SO₂ and N₂O₄ gas as many of the same plants emitted in the 1970s.  

    Electrostatic particulate precipitators are outstanding. 
    Alkaline aerosol preciptation is also excellent for SO₂ / N₂O₄ scrubbing. 

    Between the two, clean-but-for-the-CO₂ (plant food!)

    IF THEY INSTALL completely modern scrubbers, AND they run them 24–7–365, well … essentially no additional pollution loading for the Indians and Chinese. If they don’t tho’, your assertion is correct.  They also ought to retroactively install right-sized scrubbers for existing plants, to mitigate the egregiously bad pollutive problem of today. AND USE THEM 24–7–365.  

    Just Saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  15. If any of that GHG measurement comes from self-reported industry figures, it is highly suspect, especially in recent years where there is more pressure to reduce GHG. For example, it was only discovered fairly recently that NG flaring is releasing more methane than industry admitted to.

  16. I seriously doubt China and India can both afford to double their coal burning. The pollution is already making their cities uninhabitable.

    To extrapolate one has to not only measure the current rate of change but to also measure the current rate of change of the current rate of change. And one cannot use the average rate of change for the last decade to extrapolate the next three decades.

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