As the pandemic grew in 2020, CO2 emissions from energy production shrank to a 27-year low. There’s a message in that.

2020 was a down year in emissions.

Emissions and economic activity go together. The 2020 lockdowns reduced economic activity and reduced energy use. Even at home, where everyone hunkered down, energy consumption was down 6% in 2020. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

In 2020 our transportation use went down – ask an airline executive – and cars stayed in garages. Storefronts closed. Factories slowed down. They got cranked up again in 2021.

We can see where this is going, a return to where we were. Technology does not give us a pass.

The 2020 path of energy. Transportation is a big end-use and emissions source. (Source)

We can look for “the largest increase [in emissions] since 2010 when, after the global financial crisis of 2007-09, governments poured cash into carbon-intensive projects in an effort to pull their economies out of recession.” (Source)

The US is not investing in heavy carbon-based power generation. Other countries may be as they need electricity. “Absent significant changes in policy or technology, world energy consumption will grow by nearly 50% between 2020 and 2050.” (Source)

So we are getting back on the energy train (or in the car or plane). Our future is likely our past.