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However, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported last month that we may soon reach a different but related value: a peak in global oil consumption.
Ciarán Healy, an IEA oil market analyst and coauthor of the report, believes that peak will occur before the end of the decade, most likely in 2029 or 2030. There is a picture of growth, but it’s slowing down [this decade], and oil remains very significant, but we might be nearing a turning point.”
Even a peak in oil use at the end of the decade will fall far short of what is needed to keep global temperature rise within safe limits.
In fact, the IEA has previously outlined that for CO2 emissions from the energy sector to reach net zero by 2050 – a requirement to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – new coal mines, oil fields, and gas fields must be stopped immediately.
However, it would still be an important sign that the shift from fossil fuels to renewables is taking place on a global scale.
The IEA is not the only body to predict an end to oil growth. There is also evidence that some oil companies, such as BP, believe the global demand for oil is declining.
How can we explain the numbers – and what is preventing them from declining faster? There is a lot of change happening behind these predictions according to BBC Future.
Prior to the early 2010s, peak oil discussions generally referred only to concerns over peak oil production: when crude oil reaches its peak production capacity, followed by an irreversible decline.
In light of a growing global dependence on oil, the concept was worrying for energy experts. There have been numerous predictions of peak oil production that haven’t materialized. In recent years, unconventional oil sources such as shale oil and tar sands have proliferated, while large conventional oil fields have been found in countries like Guyana, Namibia, and Brazil.
During her PhD at Imperial College London, Krista Halttunen co-authored a paper at the University of Oxford on peak oil. “There are always new discoveries or new technologies,” Halttunen says. So we’ve never reached a peak – oil production capacity has been growing the entire time oil has been around.”
Concerns about climate change, however, have shifted opinions about fossil fuel extraction dramatically over the last few decades. The largest contributors to global climate change are coal, oil, and gas. With an array of alternative renewable energy sources available at our fingertips, fossil fuels must be reduced and phased out in the near future.
We will hopefully start cutting our need for fossil fuels far before we exhaust all that can be extracted from the Earth’s crust before we reach peak fossil fuels as the world begins to move away from fossil fuels. By the end of the decade, the IEA estimates the world will have reached this point.