Energy Bulletin: Environmental implications of fossil fuel energy consumption

Bismark Ameyaw & Amos Oppong

Global environmental issues are getting more attention due to the rising threat of global warming and climate change. The inter-governmental panel on climate change (IPCC) reports a 1.1 to 6.4°C increase of global temperatures and a rise in sea level of about 16.5 to 53.8 cm by 2100. Bearing global warming and climate change in mind, the issue of environmental pollutants is on a progressive trend in Ghana as more energy consumption is required for higher economic development.

Consequently, Ghana suffers from more environmental problems due to recent surges in fossil fuel consumption. The main effect of fossil fuel-energy use is related to changes in the composition of ambient air, called air-pollution, and some of its side-effects. The rapid increase of CO2 emissions is mainly the result of human activities due to development and industrialisation in Ghana over the last decades.

From Figure 1 below, it is evident that Ghana’s fossil fuel consumption has overtaken that of renewables. This implies that carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) etc. are being emitted into the environment and further endangering human life. This article uses data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and World Bank to analyse the relationship between fossil fuels and CO2; fossil fuels and CH4; fossil fuels and N2O – and further proposes policy recommendations aimed at reducing the consumption of fossil fuels.

Figure 1: Energy Consumption by Source (Data from EIA and World Bank)



  1. Results (a)




Figure 2: Fossil Fuel Energy Consumption (FFEC) and Greenhouse Gas Emissions; (a) FFEC and CO2 Emissions; (b) FFEC and CH4 Emissions; (c) FFEC and N2O Emissions.

Robust scientific facts from various research publications and reports on the heavily deteriorating ecosystem has spiked interest in putting into full force actions by countries to commit to the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), following the post-December 2015 Paris Climate accord.  Policies regarding cutting down consumption of energy from fossil fuel sources dominate most of the INDCs due to the key role deteriorating effects of fossil fuel consumption on the environment.

Figure 2 shows the trends in CO2 emissions, CH4, N2O, energy consumption from fossil fuels and renewables sources in Ghana for the 1971-2012/3 period. The upward-sloping nature of the CO2, CH4, N2O and fossil fuels curve suggest significant effects.

Fitting a heteroscedasticity and autocorrelation-corrected model to the GHGs-fossil fuel data shows a marginal effect of ~2792kt, ~3721ktCO2e and ~3204ktCO2e on CO2, CH4 and N2O emissions respectively in Ghana [see Figure 2]. Such marginal effects are all also statistically significant at 0.001% or less level. With an adjusted r2 of ~0.91 for the case of CO2 [see Figure 2(a)], ~0.73 for CH4 [see Figure 2(b)], and ~0.78 for N2O [see Figure 2(c)]; and corresponding ­p-values of ~0.0000, it is evident that the use of fossil fuel has contributed considerably to GHG emissions in Ghana.

  1. Policy Implications

In many respects, the world is betting that we will greatly reduce the use of fossil fuels because we will run out of inexpensive fossil fuels (i.e., decreases in supply), and/or technological advances will lead to the discovery of less expensive low carbon technologies (i.e., decreases in demand). The historical record indicates that the supply of fossil fuels has consistently increased over time, and that their relative price advantage over low carbon energy sources has not declined substantially over that time.

Therefore, government and other stakeholders in the energy sector should implement a wide range of mitigation and adaptation actions which induce sectors of the economy to adopt new technologies that help reduce or minimise, by an appreciable level, emissions of CO2, NH4 and N2O. Without robust efforts to correct the market failures around greenhouse gases, relying on supply and/or demand forces to limit greenhouse gas emissions is relying heavily on hope. Government should prioritise energy-related research and development for the diffusion of cleaner technologies in the long-run. Emissions can be reduced by applying property rights over natural resources and eliminating any policy distortions.


AMOS OPPONG is a researcher at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and a referee to a number of prestigious peer-review journals. He specialises in modelling and forecasting the dynamic links in environmental, energy and the economy and policy analysis. He has rich research experience in diverse fields, assisting research projects on mining, agriculture, sectoral energy demand, economy-wide energy demand and supply, trade, environmental cooperation, air-pollution and climate change. You may contact him through: Email: [email protected]; [email protected]

BISMARK AMEYAW is a researcher at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and a referee to a number of prestigious peer-review journals. He specialises in modelling and forecasting the dynamic links in energy policies and the economy. He writes, teaches and consults on management and econometric issues. He serves as an editorial board-member and a reviewer for a number of prestigious international journals. You may contact him through: E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected] and [email protected] 

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