Global Coal Consumption Keeps Rising, But Growth Is Slowing

Global Coal Consumption Keeps Rising, But Growth Is Slowing


Global coal consumption keeps rising, reaching 3,826.7 million tons of oil equivalent (mtoe) in 2013.1 (See Figure 1.) This represents a 3 percent increase from the previous year, and it came on the heels of 2.6 percent growth in 2012.2 But the pace of growth is down from 7.1 percent in 2010 and 5.4 percent in 2011, when economies rebounded from the Great Recession.3 Consumption rose from 1,074 mtoe in 1950 to 2,261 mtoe in 1988, after which it leveled off at around 2,200–2,300 mtoe in the 1990s before resuming strong growth.4

Coal Figure 1

Looking at recent developments by region, energy-hungry emerging economies have been driving the expansion in coal use since the beginning of this century. China used 1,933 mtoe in 2013, and India, 324 mtoe.5 In contrast, coal consumption in the United States and the European Union (EU) is declining. These countries have been replacing part of their coal consumption with natural gas and renewable energy, although China is taking steps in the same direction. The United States used 455.7 mtoe in 2013.6 The EU, at 285.4 mtoe, accounts for over 56 percent of the consumption of the Eurasian region; Russia uses 93.5 mtoe.7 (See Figure 2.)

Coal Figure 2

The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects world coal demand to reach 6,350 mtoe in 2040, but it expects the growth rate to drop to 0.5 percent annually, principally because of weaker demand in countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.8

Will Population Growth End in This Century?

Will Population Growth End in This Century?


Having nearly tripled from 2.5 billion people in 1950 to 7.3 billion today (see Figure 1), human population will continue growing through 2070, according to two recent demographic projections.1 After that, population either will begin to shrink or will continue growing into the next century, depending on which of the two projections more accurately forecasts the future.

Population Figure 1

In the years following World War II, population grew fairly rapidly, with a rate of growth that peaked in the late 1960s at 2.1 percent a year.2 (See Figure 2.) Since then population growth has gradually slowed—although with a larger base each year, the number of people added annually has changed little. Every year sees the addition of about 80 million human beings on the planet, roughly the current population of Germany, Turkey, or Egypt.3

Population Figure 2

The two population projections—one from the United Nations Population Division (UNPD), the other from the International Institute for Applied  Systems Analysis (IIASA)—agree on how population has grown until now.4 But their future scenarios document a breakdown in consensus among demographers about the future. The people-counting social science seems to be entering a new realm in which scientists recognize how much uncertainty the world and its population face in 2014. Unusually for the demographic discipline, experts even went public with their disagreement about the most likely trends in the critically influential area of how many people will live on the planet in the future: letters to the editor of both the Wall Street Journaland Science by key authors of both sets of projections laid out some of the reasoning behind their numbers.5

Global Energy and Carbon Intensity Continue to Decline

Global Energy and Carbon Intensity Continue to Decline

Haibing Ma | Dec 15, 2014


Global energy intensity, defined as worldwide total energy consumption divided by gross world product, decreased 0.19 percent in 2013.1 That may not seem all that impressive, but considering that energy intensity increased steeply between 2008 and 2010, this small decline continues a much-needed trend toward lower energy intensity, which basically means that people are using energy more efficiently.2

While a growing economy generally correlates with growing absolute energy use, energy intensity may well decline. During the 1970s, this is generally what happened. There were small bounces in 1975 and 1976, however, between the twin oil crises of 1973 and 1979.3 (See Figure 1.) During an energy supply crisis, consuming nations tend to drastically restrict their energy consumption. But when the crisis eases, even if only temporarily, energy demand rises as efforts to boost the economy take hold.

Energy and Carbon Intensity Figure 1

In the 1990s, industrial economies started to turn to a new growth paradigm that relied heavily on service sectors. This “knowledge-based economy” is much less energy-intensive than the economic model that most nations adopted during industrialization. As a result, global energy intensity decreased 13.72 percent during the decade—the largest drop in the past 50 years.4

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