This talk proposes ways of studying fossil fuel consumption through the lens of global history. Study of technological systems, the social and economic systems in which they are embedded, and the interactions between these, can yield insights. These types of history may help us to understand, first, the context for the political history of the international climate negotiations, and, second, the negotiations’ disastrous failure to achieve their central aim, i.e. to reverse fossil fuel consumption growth. The paper will also reflect on the political significance of different methods of quantitative research of fuel consumption. It will point to important turning-points in consumption growth since the mid 20th century, and consider what light these shed on the transition away from fossil fuels.