Global carbon intensity decreased 50% since 1990

Global Carbon Intensity dropped 50% since 1990

Source: Global Carbon Project

Carbon intensity is a measurement describing how much CO₂ emissions are being produced to create a certain amount of economic output (measured in US Dollars per year). When you look at the grey line above representing the world as a whole you can see that carbon intensity dropped from around 0.75 – 0.8 in 1970 to 0.39 in 2015. During the same period China’s carbon intensity plummeted by an unbelievable ~75%!!! So much for China being the bad boy!.

Of course China still has a higher carbon intensity than the rest of the world, but people forget where they started and how far they’ve come considering the size of the country and population. Matters of such magnitude simply take time, no matter how fast you work and that is something people need to keep in mind. The important fact here is that carbon intensity is decreasing globally, reducing society’s toll on nature.

A similar conclusion can be drawn when looking at energy intensity, which is the amount of energy (not CO₂ ) needed to produce a unit of economic output (again measured in US Dollars per year).


Source: Worldwatch Institute

According to World Bank and BP global energy intensity dropped by more than 13% since 1990 and more than 25% since measurements started in 1965.
Last but not least we have CO₂ intensity of energy use measured in metric tons of CO₂ per ton of oil equivalent (toe). In simple terms this factor measures how much CO₂ is being emitted for a unit of energy produced. CO₂ intensity of energy use gives us a representation of how the energy sector is changing from fossil fuels to renewable energy (also including non carbon sources like nuclear!).


Source: CO₂ Scorecard

In the chart above you can see several lines with the most important one being the black curve indicating the world as a whole. While the whole world decreased its CO₂ intensity of energy use, you can see that the OECD made faster progress than the rest of the world owing to the increased focus on renewable energy. The decrease since 1965 was almost 20%, while the global decrease was closer to 10%. The main reason for this difference is China with its large number of coal driven power plants. This is about to change however, as China is putting intense efforts into decarbonising its energy grid, accelerating the future drop in CO₂ intensity of energy use.

Featured image courtesy of “Foto-Rabe” via Pixabay

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2 thoughts on “Global Carbon Intensity dropped 50% since 1990

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