UK CO2 Emissions

I posted the following on a tumblr blog I created for data visualization however I believe that WordPress might be more suitable for these types of posts:

The data in this infographic represents the change in CO2 emissions between 2009-2016 and was provided by gov.uk.

I find two pieces of this infographic interesting. Firstly if you take a look at the Total CO2 emissions we can see that the UK’s CO2 emissions have dropped ~21% from 2009 to 2016. This is progress and it is great to see progress being made. However if we actually narrow in on the data. We can see the change is really only happening in the Energy Supply sector. The rest of the sectors have stayed fairly stagnant between 2009 and 2016. The second largest sector Transport has actually increased by 1.2% from 2009.

Why are we seeing real progress in the reduction of CO2 emissions only in the energy supply sector ? Is it because we have seen immense pressure on the fossil fuel companies to reduce CO2 emissions but similar pressures have not been enforced on the other sectors. What can we do to make these sectors just  as accountable as the fossil fuel industry  for reducing CO2 emissions?

If we examine the change in fossil fuel emissions. We can see that oil has stayed fairly stagnant, natural gas is increasing and coal has had a significantly dropped in emissions. This is in line with UK government targets to close all coal power stations by 2025 and replace them with cleaner fossil fuels such as natural gas.

The data shows that overall we are reducing emissions but is this result really just a false positive ? Are we actually moving towards a greener United Kingdom? I doubt it.

Firstly, oil had stayed completely stagnant. Oil is a major emitter of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases. It is a massive wall standing in the middle of our progress towards a greener United Kingdom. We need to start to fight against the oil industry. However it makes it difficult when the headline reads “2016 carbon emissions are at all time low”. Most will see this headline and believe we are winning the fight against the fossil fuel industry. However that is not the case. Just think how much the emissions could have been reduced if we had actually made a significant dent in oil emissions from 2009-2016 as well as the coal emissions.

Secondly, yes we have significantly reduced coal emissions but we have also increased natural gas emissions. Natural gas is mostly made up of methane which is a potent greenhouse gas. The biggest risk with natural gas is when it leaks, it is 34 times stronger than CO2 at trapping heat over a 100-year period and 86 times stronger over 20 years. Natural gas is only a suitable alternative if we can minimise leakages and that really isn’t a guarantee at the moment.

So yes we are somewhat making progress towards the reduction of CO2 emissions. However is it enough progress ? Are we actually moving in the right direction? Can we do more? We need to start to understand the information which is behind the big headlines.

 

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