Quantifying Futility: estimating future Global CO2 emissions

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Following the thinking of the late Prof David Mackay using “back of the envelope calculations”.  This post takes a business planning approach and makes estimates of the likely future growth in global CO2 emissions to put the efforts at CO2 emissions reduction in the Western World into the context of the inevitable future growth of Global CO2 emissions.

Two future scenarios are considered but no timescales are estimated.  They set the range of outcomes:

Firstly:  the Underdeveloped world and India presently at a level of ~1.9tonnes/head/annum attain the Global average level of CO2 emissions/head/annum of 2018:  4.46tonnes/head/annum.  This results in Global CO2 emissions growing by an extra 18.5Gigatonnes/annum to reach ~52Gigatonnes/annum. As well as being the Global average, the level of 4.46tonnes/head/annum it is about the current CO2 emissions/head/annum in France.

Secondly:  the Underdeveloped world and India eventually attain the level of CO2 emissions/head current in China:  6.78tonnes/head/annum.  This level is also close to the average 2018 CO2 emissions/head/annum in the EU(28). This would result in Global CO2 emissions growing by ~33.5Gigatonnes/annum to reach ~67Gigatonnes/annum.

These values give a reasonable range of estimates and show how the inevitable CO2 emissions growth in the Developing World would swamp any savings made by Western nations in the name of controlling climate.

This point was amply made by Berkley Professor Richard Muller in 2010, before he set up the BEST temperature record.  His graph is shown below:  this post just puts some more precise values on the extent that the Underdeveloped world will wholly overwhelm any efforts in the West to reduce Global  CO2 emissions and thus attempt to influence Global temperature.

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Starting point

BP releases its review of World Energy every year and their most recent CO2 emissions data was released for the end of 2018.  This data set is used as the foundation of the following speculative calculations.


The comprehensive BP data is reclassified into major Nation groups as shown below:

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CO2 emissions growth

In spite of the 2016 Paris Climate accord, it the Underdeveloped and Developing Nations have no significant limitation of their CO2 emissions for the foreseeable future.

The BP data reports the 2018 Man-made CO2 emissions as ~34Gigatonnes/annum.  If the world population were:

  • to achieve the 2018 Global average the level of CO2 emissions would rise by ~18Gigatonnes/annum, an additional 60% to ~52Gigatonnes/annum
  • were the Global population eventually to attain a similar level of development to China that 2018 figure would increase by ~33gigatonnes/annum to virtually double to ~67Gigatonnes/annum.

In spite of Western agencies, such as the IMF, trying to hold back investment for effective power generation in the Underdeveloped World, (about half the Global population), on the grounds of controlling Man-made Climate Change, the Chinese “Belt and Road Program” is working in exactly the opposite direction.  China is promoting Coal-fired power and the installation of electrical grids throughout the Underdeveloped World.  The probable outcome in terms of CO2 emissions of this policy is indicated by these estimates.

The improvements in lifestyle for the Underdeveloped world will progressively reduce the pressure for further population growth in those Nations.  The concomitant beneficial outcome for China will be the eventual technical and financial colonisation of much of the Underdeveloped World.

The USA on the other hand has already achieved substantial CO2 emissions reduction, about -25% since 2000 by the use of Fracked Gas rather than Coal for electricity generation.  This technical shift has resulted a far greater CO2 emissions reduction than achieved by either the Kyoto Protocol or the Paris Climate Accord.  The USA’s continuing replacement of Coal by inexpensive Fracked gas for electricity generation is assumed to effect a further 15% reduction in its CO2 emissions.

The only Nations taking any real proactive account of their CO2 emissions are in Europe and possibly Canada.  The aspiration to get to “Net Zero CO2 emissions” is very unlikely to be achieved without the destruction European economies and the total loss of wellbeing in Europe and the West.  It should be noted that the reduction of CO2 emissions/head/annum down to ~5.5tonnes/head in the UK is largely attributable to the earlier UK “dash for Gas” policy, whereas the German “Energiewende” and its massive commitment to Weather Dependent Renewables has not resulted in an equivalent CO2 emissions reduction.

Rather than achieving “Net Zero emissions”, more realistically, these estimates assume that Europe as a whole might reduce its CO2 emissions by a further 20%, but this would only amount to a reduction ~0.7Gigatonnes/annum.  Nonetheless even this level of CO2 emissions reduction would still be associated with massive self-harm to European economies.  This comparatively minor EU(28) CO2 emissions reduction of 0.7 Gigatonnes should be set against the inevitable CO2 emissions growth anticipated here initially of 18.5Gigatonnes/annum and possibly later up to 33.5Gigatonnes/annum.

The proportional percentage breakdown of this growth of CO2 emissions is shown below.

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Estimated Global Population Growth

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It is assumed that the bulk of population growth will arise in the Underdeveloped world, Rest of World (~160 Nations), growing by 30% and with India and the rapidly Developing Nations growing by ~20%.  This population growth can only be curbed by increasing development and urbanisation of the Underdeveloped world.  It is assumed that population growth in China will be more limited to about 10%.

The developed world would see only marginal population growth, with 5% growth in the USA and other Developed Nations, (JP CIS CA AU) and with virtually nil population growth in the EU(28).

The result is that Global population is likely to exceed ~9 billion by about 2100, of which the EU(28) share will reduce to from 6.8% to 5.7% of Global population.  According to current UN predictions this Global population outcome by 2100 is a low estimate.  The range of CO2 emissions increase will increase as the population of the underdeveloped world grows further.


A note aside about de-carbonisation:  

As France uses Nuclear power for electricity generation its has achieved the lowest CO2 emissions/head/annum of all Developed Nations.  France has shown the way in which significant but not total Decarbonisation can be achieved in a Developed Nation.  Irrationally, French policy now favours the reduction of its Nuclear fleet and the promotion of Weather Dependent Renewables.Screenshot 2020-02-12 at 09.42.01.png





The current, 2018 EU(28) CO2 emissions are 3.4Gigatonnes or about 10% of current Global CO2 emissions.  In the event of these two scenarios this EU(28) proportion of Global CO2 emissions will reduce to between 5.1% – 4.1%.  So a reduction of only 3.4 Gigatonnes/annum could be achieved by meeting the impossible target of Net Zero emissions in the EU(28).  Net Zero emissions achieved in the UK alone could only result in a CO2 reduction of 0.34Gigatonnes/annum.

However as soon as the Underdeveloped world gets access to centralised power that possibly viable 20% reduction for the EU(28) at 0.7Gigatonnes/annum would be entirely swamped by the inevitable additional CO2 emissions elsewhere in the World.

The likely CO2 emissions increases ranging from 18.5 – 33.5Gigatonnes/annum and puts the possible 20% reduction by the entire EU(28) of  ~0.7Gigatonnes in its true context. And as UK CO2 emissions are roughly 10% of the EU(28) total CO2 emissions, makes any efforts in CO2 emissions reduction in the UK even less significant.


In the context of the inevitable massive expansion of CO2 emissions from the Underdeveloped world, any CO2 reduction efforts in the EU(28) or just in the UK alone would be acts of massive self-harm and clearly futile.

As Professor Richard Lindzen said at a parliamentary hearing in 2014:

Whatever the UK decides to do will have no impact on your climate, but will have a profound impact on your economy.  You are trying to solve a problem that may not be a problem by taking actions that you know will hurt your economy

Unsurprisingly, Russia, China and India are mocking the way Western governments have been induced by their “Green thinking and Virtue Signalling” to promote their policies of abject self-harm at great National cost and to no perceptible benefit.  This is amply supported by Western “useful idiots”, (Lenin’s term).

The “Green” movement has already succeeded in eliminating Fracking throughout Europe and Germany now has a dependency on Russian Gas exports via the Nordstream pipelines, which can be cut off any time at Russia’s whim.

The Developing and Eastern worlds are certainly not going to be meekly following the deranged example of the “virtue signalling” West.