Startling global CO2 emissions report describes ‘step back for humankind’

13 Nov 2017

Image: Ugis Riba/Shutterstock

It seems the idea that we may have reached a peak in CO2 emissions after a three-year plateau was very, very wrong.

In a crushing blow to the Earth’s future climate, analysis of projected CO2 emissions for the total of 2017 show the first increase in three years, dashing any hope that we had started to potentially reverse the trend.

In a paper published in multiple scientific journals, the 2017 Global Carbon Budget published by the Global Carbon Project (GCP) found that global emissions this year will rise by 2pc compared with 2016.

Despite the researchers believing that there is an uncertainty range between 0.8pc and 3pc, the project’s lead researcher, Prof Corinne Le Quéré from the University of East Anglia, has described the findings as “very disappointing”.

In total, it is estimated that human activities will account for 41bn tonnes of CO2 emissions, with dwindling hope that the global economy can change to meet the 2C global temperature reduction set out by the Paris Agreement.

GIF: Global Carbon Project

China is greatest polluter

The report found that despite its apparent efforts to drastically shift its energy production from fossil fuels to renewable energy, China accounts for 28pc of global emissions.

The researchers have attributed this year’s rise to expectations that coal use may rise by 3.5pc due to stronger growth in industrial production and lower hydropower generation from less rainfall.

There is also the fact that the global economy is picking up steam again following the 2008 financial crash, thereby ramping up the amount of emissions needed to create more goods.

India, too, is expected to increase its emissions by 2pc this year. However, this is less than the 6pc year-on-year increase found in previous studies, largely led by the government’s reform measures in cleaner energy sources.

US and Europe clean up their acts, but only just

Both the US and Europe are expected to show a small decrease in emissions this year, but they are also expected to post a lower rate of reduction compared with previous years.

The US has a projected decline in emissions of 0.4pc, lower than the decline of 1.2pc per year averaged over the previous decade. Meanwhile, Europe’s emissions are expected to fall by 0.2pc, lower than the previous decline of 2.2pc, as GDP increases.

Amy Luers, executive director of Future Earth, the organisation sponsoring the report, did not hold back in her disappointment with the findings.

“This year’s carbon budget news is a step back for humankind,” she said. “We must reverse this trend and start to accelerate toward a safe and prosperous world for all.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic