The first thing you should know about Exxon's 2013 "Outlook For Energy" report, the latest in an annual series that makes predictions about energy use to 2040, is that climate change is mentioned twice. In both cases, the expression is followed by the word "policies."
So, with that big grain of salt, an oil tanker-sized grain of salt, what does Exxon portend for energy use on our little, warming planet? The toplines:
- "Efficiency will continue to play a key role in solving our energy challenges." Energy use by developed nations will stay flat.
- "Energy demand in developing nations [those not in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD] will rise 65 percent by 2040 compared to 2010, reflecting growing prosperity and expanding economies." This increase will mean a 35 percent rise in energy demand globally.
- "With this growth comes a greater demand for electricity." This increased demand for electricity will account for half of the overall increase in demand for energy.
- "Growth in transportation sector demand will be led by expanding commercial activity as our economies grow." Exxon will keep making money off cars and shipping ...
- "Technology is enabling the safe development of once hard-to-produce energy resources, signiﬁcantly expanding available supplies to meet the world’s changing energy needs." … and fracking.
- "Evolving demand and supply patterns will open the door for increased global trade opportunities." North America will start exporting oil.
I mean, that's pretty grim, if predictable. As living standards increase, so does energy use. And even if the largest energy users -- read, greenhouse gas emitters -- level off (which is questionable), growth elsewhere in the world more than makes up for it. So by 2040, the world, warmer thanks to what we've already emitted, will keep adding to greenhouse gas pollution as it adapts to shifts in climate -- and 2 billion more people.
The problem is summarized in these graphs: