Global carbon emissions rose again in 2017, disappointing hopes that the previous three years of near zero growth marked an inflection point in the fight against climate change. Advocates of renewable energy had attributed flat emissions to the falling cost of solar panels. Energy efficiency devotees had seen in the pause proof that economic activity had been decoupled from energy consumption. Advocates of fossil fuel divestment had posited that the carbon bubble had finally burst.
Analysts who had attributed the pause to slower economic growth in a number of parts of the world, especially China, were closer to the truth. The underlying fundamentals of the energy economy, after all, remained mostly unchanged—there had been no step change in either the energy efficiency of the global economy or the share of energy production that clean energy accounted for. And sure enough, as growth picked up, emissions started to tick back up