Dec 5, 2018 - Energy & Environment

Carbon emissions rise again in 2018, new report finds

Data: Global Carbon Atlas; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios
Data: Global Carbon Atlas; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Global carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are projected to rise by more than 2% in 2018 to the highest levels in recorded history, according to a new study by the Global Carbon Project.

Why it matters: The data clearly shows that the rapid growth in low carbon technologies, such as solar and wind power as well as electric vehicles, are not yet sufficient to cause global emissions of planet-warming gases to peak or decline.

The report comes as climate negotiators gather in Katowice, Poland, for the latest round of UN climate talks, and shortly after other research has warned that progress to cut emissions is happening far too slowly to prevent potentially catastrophic levels of global warming.

Details: The growth in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry is expected to be about 2.7% in 2018, the report estimates, with a range of between 1.8% and 3.7%, given the range of uncertainty.

  • "The growing global demand for energy is outpacing decarbonization efforts. This needs to change, and it needs to change quickly," said Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in the U.K., in a statement.

The new data for 2018, published Wednesday, shows that global emissions from burning fossil fuels are expected to hit 37.1 billion metric tons in 2018, a record high and the second straight year of growth that followed 3 years of a flat trend.

The trend: This year’s rising emission figures are largely due to an uptick in coal use, while oil use is also growing in most regions, including the U.S.

  • The 10 biggest emitters in 2018 are China, the U.S., India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Canada, the report finds. The EU as a whole region of countries ranks third.

By the numbers: A recent report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that to limit global warming to the Paris Agreement's goal of 1.5°C, or 2.7°F, above preindustrial levels, emissions would need to be cut by 50% by 2030, and slashed to net zero by 2050.

The new report underscores the fact that we're headed in the opposite direction from what scientists and many world leaders say is needed.

The bottom line: "We are not doing enough! It is not enough to just support solar, wind, or electric vehicles," Glen Peters, research director at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Oslo who led the emissions analysis, told Axios via email.

"Unless policies are in place to stop carbon going into the atmosphere, we will never meet our climate goals. We have to support new technologies, while at the same time discouraging old technologies."

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