Global carbon pollution rises after 3 straight flat years

Mindy Sparks
November 13, 2017

Researchers with the Global Carbon Project, an worldwide research consortium, presented their findings at the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

Leading that increase is China, where emissions are projected to grow by approximately 3.5 percent in 2017.

The forecast by the Global Carbon Project (GCP), published Monday in a series of reports in three different journals, says 2017 will see a record 41 billion tons of CO2 emissions globally, an increase of 2 percent compared to 2016.

The Global Carbon Project's 12th annual report unveiled this morning at the United Nations climate summit in Bonn suggests an increase in coal use in China and sluggish progress by the U.S. and European Union to decarbonise was behind the emissions uptick. It's been hungrier for coal, oil and natural gas, due to increases in industrial production and economic growth.

The Global Carbon Project's report appears in the November 13 Environmental Research Letters with detailed data published simultaneously in an Earth System Science Data Discussions paper led by Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia, who is also part of the Global Carbon Project. The country's emissions are predicted to have risen by 3.5 percent this year compared to 2016.

Carbon emissions from fossil fuels still account for an overwhelming chunk of total emissions - 37 of the total 41 million tons.

China's emissions contributes almost a third of the world's total emissions, and was a key factor in the rise.

The Global Carbon Budget report, produced by a team of 77 scientists from 57 organisations around the world, brings together the most accurate information available each year about humanity's carbon output. Carbon pollution declines in the United States and Europe were smaller than previous years.

A lot of the emissions from specific countries are linked to their economic activity, and therefore, an uptick in countries' gross domestic product growth could lead to a spurt in their Carbon dioxide emissions too.

"These numbers suggest we still don't have sufficient policies in place to prevent global emissions from rising, let alone to force them downward", said Glen Peters, a researcher at the Center for International Climate Research in Norway, who helped compile the data.

Growth in renewables and improved energy efficiency still provide reasons to be optimistic, according to Jackson.

"Prices for wind and solar power are plummeting, and batteries and storage are helping to balance supply and demand for electricity", said Jackson.

Jackson is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy. "We need to reach a peak in global emissions in the next few years and drive emissions down rapidly afterwards to address climate change and limit its impacts".

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