Global carbon emissions reached a record high in 2018 – Emissions grew at fastest rate in seven years – “We are in deep trouble with climate change”
By Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney
5 December 2018
(The Washington Post) – Global emissions of carbon dioxide are reaching the highest levels on record, scientists projected Wednesday, in the latest evidence of the chasm between international goals for combating climate change and what countries are doing.
Between 2014 and 2016, emissions remained largely flat, leading to hopes that the world was beginning to turn a corner. Those hopes appear to have been dashed. In 2017, global emissions grew 1.6 percent. The rise in 2018 is projected to be 2.7 percent.
The expected increase, which would bring fossil fuel and industrial emissions to a record high of 37.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, is being driven by a nearly 5 percent growth of emissions in China and more than 6 percent in India, researchers estimated, along with growth in many other nations. Emissions by the United States grew 2.5 percent, while those of the European Union declined by just under 1 percent.
As nations continue climate talks in Poland, the message of Wednesday’s report was unambiguous: When it comes to promises to begin cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change, the world is well off target.
“We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change,” United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said this week at the opening of the 24th annual U.N. climate conference, where countries will wrestle with the ambitious goals they need to meet to sharply reduce carbon emissions in the coming years.
“It is hard to overstate the urgency of our situation,” he said. “Even as we witness devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption.”
Guterres was not commenting specifically on Wednesday’s findings, which were released in a trio of scientific papers by researchers with the Global Carbon Project. But his words came amid a litany of grim news in the fall in which scientists have warned that the effects of climate change are no longer distant and hypothetical, and that the effects of global warming will only intensify in the absence of aggressive international action.
In October, a top U.N.-backed scientific panel found that nations have barely a decade to take “unprecedented” actions and cut their emissions in half by 2030 to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. The panel’s report found “no documented historic precedent” for the rapid changes to the infrastructure of society that would be needed to hold warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.
The day after Thanksgiving, the Trump administration released a nearly 1,700-page report co-written by hundreds of scientists finding that climate change is already causing increasing damage to the United States. That was followed by another report detailing the growing gap between the commitments made at earlier U.N. conferences and what is needed to steer the planet off its calamitous path.
Coupled with Wednesday’s findings, that drumbeat of daunting news has cast a considerable pall over the international climate talks in Poland, which began this week and are scheduled to run through Dec. 14. […]
“We’re not seeing declines in wealthy countries that outpace the increases in other parts of the world,” said Rob Jackson, a researcher at Stanford University who contributed to the research as part of the Global Carbon Project.
The problem of cutting emissions is that it leads to difficult choices in the real world. A growing global economy inevitably stokes more energy demand. And different countries are growing their emissions — or failing to shrink them — for different reasons.
“India is providing electricity and energy to hundreds of millions of people who don’t have it yet,” Jackson said. “That’s very different than in China, where they are ramping up coal use again in part because their economic growth has been slowing. They’re greenlighting coal-based projects that have been on hold.”
The continuing growth in global emissions is happening, researchers noted, even though renewable energy sources are growing. It’s just that they’re still far too small as energy sources.
“Solar and wind are doing great; they’re going quite well,” said Glen Peters, director of the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo and another of the Global Carbon Project research’s authors. “But in China and India, the solar and wind are just filling new demand. You could say if you didn’t have solar or wind, emissions could be higher. But solar and wind are nowhere near big enough yet to replace fossil fuels.” [more]
By Leslie Hook
5 December 2018
(Financial Times) – Global carbon dioxide emissions are accelerating at their fastest pace in seven years and hit a record high in 2018, despite pledges by nearly 200 countries to limit global warming to well below 2C.
Carbon emissions rose 2.7 per cent in 2018 mainly due to emissions growth in China, India and the US, according to research published on Wednesday.
The data, published simultaneously in the scientific journals Nature, Earth System Science Data, and Environmental Research Letters, come as the annual UN climate talks are under way in Katowice, Poland.
The rise in emissions is a dramatic change from recent years, and underscores how challenging it will be for countries to meet the commitments of the 2015 Paris climate accord, a global pact to combat climate change. It dashes the hopes of many economists who had argued that economic growth was “decoupling” from global emissions growth, back when emissions appeared to be flattening out.
After a plateau in global emissions from 2014-16, and an increase of 1.6 per cent in 2017, the rise this year is largely due to growth in fossil fuel consumption, according to Glen Peters, research director at the Cicero Centre for International Climate Research in Oslo.
“It’s a step backwards, that’s for sure,” said Mr Peters, who led the emissions research. “The climate policies we’ve put in place are not sufficient to overcome the growth in the economy, and the growth in energy use.” […]
Corinne Le Quéré, professor of climate change science at the University of East Anglia and lead researcher for the study, pointed out that emissions would need to fall by 50 per cent by 2030 and reach zero by 2050 in order to limit global warming to 1.5C. The latest data show that a peak in emissions is “not yet in sight” she said.
Global coal consumption peaked in 2013, but the growth in coal this year and in 2017 mean that peak could be shortlived. “The use of oil and gas keeps growing, and some countries are still using coal to fuel much of their economic growth,” wrote Christiana Figueres, the former head of the UN climate secretariat, in Nature. [more]
ABSTRACT: Accurate assessment of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and their redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and terrestrial biosphere – the “global carbon budget” – is important to better understand the global carbon cycle, support the development of climate policies, and project future climate change. Here we describe data sets and methodology to quantify the five major components of the global carbon budget and their uncertainties. Fossil CO2 emissions (EFF) are based on energy statistics and cement production data, while emissions from land use and land-use change (ELUC), mainly deforestation, are based on land use and land-use change data and bookkeeping models. Atmospheric CO2 concentration is measured directly and its growth rate (GATM) is computed from the annual changes in concentration. The ocean CO2 sink (SOCEAN) and terrestrial CO2 sink (SLAND) are estimated with global process models constrained by observations. The resulting carbon budget imbalance (BIM), the difference between the estimated total emissions and the estimated changes in the atmosphere, ocean, and terrestrial biosphere, is a measure of imperfect data and understanding of the contemporary carbon cycle. All uncertainties are reported as ±1σ. For the last decade available (2008–2017), EFF was 9.4±0.5 GtC yr−1, ELUC 1.5±0.7 GtC yr−1, GATM 4.7±0.02 GtC yr−1, SOCEAN 2.4±0.5 GtC yr−1, and SLAND 3.2±0.8 GtC yr−1, with a budget imbalance BIM of 0.5 GtC yr−1 indicating overestimated emissions and/or underestimated sinks. For the year 2017 alone, the growth in EFF was about 1.6 % and emissions increased to 9.9±0.5 GtC yr−1. Also for 2017, ELUC was 1.4±0.7 GtC yr−1, GATM was 4.6±0.2 GtC yr−1, SOCEAN was 2.5±0.5 GtC yr−1, and SLAND was 3.8±0.8 GtC yr−1, with a BIM of 0.3 GtC. The global atmospheric CO2 concentration reached 405.0±0.1 ppm averaged over 2017. For 2018, preliminary data for the first 6–9 months indicate a renewed growth in EFF of +2.7 % (range of 1.8 % to 3.7 %) based on national emission projections for China, the US, the EU, and India and projections of gross domestic product corrected for recent changes in the carbon intensity of the economy for the rest of the world. The analysis presented here shows that the mean and trend in the five components of the global carbon budget are consistently estimated over the period of 1959–2017, but discrepancies of up to 1 GtC yr−1 persist for the representation of semi-decadal variability in CO2 fluxes. A detailed comparison among individual estimates and the introduction of a broad range of observations show (1) no consensus in the mean and trend in land-use change emissions, (2) a persistent low agreement among the different methods on the magnitude of the land CO2 flux in the northern extra-tropics, and (3) an apparent underestimation of the CO2 variability by ocean models, originating outside the tropics. This living data update documents changes in the methods and data sets used in this new global carbon budget and the progress in understanding the global carbon cycle compared with previous publications of this data set (Le Quéré et al., 2018, 2016, 2015a, b, 2014, 2013). All results presented here can be downloaded from https://doi.org/10.18160/GCP-2018.