Extreme Temperature Diary- Tuesday March 14th, 2023/ Main Topic: Applause- Coal Use Drops to Lowest Level Since 1757 in the U.K.

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track global extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: Applause- Coal Use Drops to Lowest Level Since 1757 in the U.K.

Dear Diary. Just about all of my readers know that the burning of coal is the most harmful choice to produce energy because of the concentrated release of carbon that method emits into the atmosphere, not to mention its release of cancerous dirty soot, as well. The renewable choices of wind and solar are clean and are now cost effective as of 2023, so all nations should be rapidly curtailing their use of coal. Right? Of course, but some nations are doing a better job with energy generation than others.

Today I’m applauding the United Kingdom for their rapid curtailment of coal usage. Of course, much more work needs to occur so that coal usage drops to zero in that country and elsewhere, but this Carbon Brief report is impressive:

Analysis: UK emissions fall 3.4% in 2022 as coal use drops to lowest level since 1757 – Carbon Brief


6 March 2023  

Analysis: UK emissions fall 3.4% in 2022 as coal use drops to lowest level since 1757



The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 3.4% in 2022, according to new Carbon Brief analysis, ending a post-Covid rebound. 

Emissions from coal and gas fell in 2022, due to strong growth in clean energy, above-average temperatures and record-high fossil fuel prices suppressing demand.

The 15% reduction in coal use means UK demand for the fuel is now the lowest it has been for 266 years. The last time coal demand was this low was in 1757, when George II was king.

Emissions from oil increased, as road traffic returned to pre-Covid levels and air traffic doubled from a year earlier. However, this was outweighed by the reductions from coal and gas.

UK emissions have now fallen in nine of the past 10 years, even as the economy has grown. The drop in 2022 puts UK emissions 49% below 1990 levels, while the economy has grown 75% over the same period.

Carbon Brief’s analysis, based on preliminary government energy data, shows UK emissions fell by 14m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2022. Emissions will need to fall by a similar amount every year – for the next three decades – to reach net-zero by 2050.

The analysis also shows that emissions would have increased in 2022, if temperatures had not been 0.9C above average and without strong growth from wind and solar energy.

This means only a fraction of last year’s emissions cuts came from deliberate action. Moreover, with coal use already at such low levels, the UK will need to address emissions from buildings, transport, industry and agriculture if it is to make further progress towards its net-zero target.

Covid closure

The coronavirus pandemic triggered record reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the UK and globally in 2020. An inevitable rebound followed, as economies reopened from lockdowns.

This rebound continued in 2022, as higher road and air traffic helped push global emissions to a new record.

In the UK, however, emissions fell by 3.4%, according to Carbon Brief’s new analysis. This drop ended the UK’s post-Covid emissions rebound, as shown in the chart below.

After having fallen by 9.8% in 2020 during the height of Covid, emissions had risen by 5.0% in 2021. Emissions in 2022, at an estimated 412MtCO2e, were slightly higher than in 2020 (406MtCO2e), which remains the lowest in the modern era.

Greenhouse gas emissions within UK borders have now fallen in nine of the past 10 years. Indeed, UK emissions have only risen year-on-year seven times since 1990.

In 2022, rising UK demand for transport fuel was more than offset by declines in coal and gas.

Classical coal

The UK’s coal demand fell by another 15% in 2022 to just 6.2m tonnes. This is the lowest level since 1757, according to Carbon Brief analysis of historical data.

That year in the UK, George II was king, William Cavendish was prime minister and the industrial revolution had not yet begun. A year earlier, Wolgang Amadeus Mozart had been born in Austria.

In the years that followed, UK coal use climbed rapidly as industrialisation took off. Annual demand for the fuel rocketed to 60Mt by 1850 and peaked at 221Mt in 1956.

This is shown in the chart below, which combines data covering 1853 onwards from the UK government with estimates for earlier years published by historian Paul Warde.

(The UK’s historical coal use is the main reason it remains the eighth-largest contributor to current warming. Its contribution is particularly notable given its modest population.)

Coal’s decline in the UK has been even more precipitous than its ascent. It peaked in 1956, when the Clean Air Act was passed in response to London’s “Great Smog”. Coal use halved to around 120Mt by the 1970s and then halved again to around 60Mt at the turn of the century.

After remaining at a similar level until 2012, UK coal use has now fallen 90% in the past decade. This is mostly due to the near-phaseout of coal power, which is down 96% over the same period.

Last year, there had been fears of a coal “comeback” or a “return to coal” in the face of the global energy crisis. In the event, use of the fuel to generate electricity fell by 15% in 2022.

Electricity system operator National Grid had paid an estimated £386m to keep old coal plants open and stocked with coal, in case electricity supplies were tight. But the plants never ran.

There are several reasons why there was no need for a return to coal power in 2022.

First, UK electricity use fell by 3.8% in 2022 to its lowest level in around 40 years.

This reduction was largely due to a 9.6% drop in demand from homes. People spent more time away from home as Covid restrictions ended, with shops and offices seeing a corresponding increase in electricity use. Meanwhile, warmer temperatures reduced the need for heat, including from electricity. And historically high energy bills dampened demand.

Second, wind power climbed to a new record high in 2022, rising 25% thanks to increased capacity and a rebound from decade-low windspeeds in 2021. There were also smaller increases in generation from hydro, solar, nuclear and gas.

The combination of lower demand and higher supply from other fuels enabled the UK to become a net electricity exporter for the first time since 1978, at the same time as cutting coal power.

Steel production in Scunthorpe, UK. Credit: Steve Morgan / Alamy Stock Photo.

In addition to coal power, there have also been significant declines in coal use by the UK steel industry. Demand for coking coal to run blast furnaces fell 19% in 2022, as UK steel production fell by 16% to its lowest level since 1932, according to the International Steel Statistics Bureau.

(In 2022, the UK government approved the country’s first new coking coal mine for 30 years in Cumbria, northwest England. The vast majority of its output will be exported.)

Global steel production also fell in 2022, but only by 4%, according to the World Steel Association (WSA). UK output fell faster than many other European countries, the WSA figures show. It faced “subdued” demand, particularly from UK carmakers, as well as higher exposure to record gas prices, due to the UK’s reliance on the fuel to make electricity.

(For much more, including Carbon Brief charts, use the following link: Analysis: UK emissions fall 3.4% in 2022 as coal use drops to lowest level since 1757 – Carbon Brief)

Here are some “ET’s” recorded from around the planet the last couple of days, their consequences, and some extreme temperature outlooks, as well as any extreme precipitation reports:

Here is more February 2023 climatology:

Here is more climate and weather news from Tuesday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton… “The Climate Guy”

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