Dec 6, 2018 - Energy & Environment

The countries that pushed carbon emissions to record levels

Reproduced from a Global Carbon Project chart; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from a Global Carbon Project chart; Chart: Axios Visuals

When it comes to cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, the world isn't just failing — we're stepping our foot on the gas pedal.

The big picture: On Wednesday, scientists reported in a series of studies that global emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels are likely to hit record levels in 2018. China and India are responsible for much of that growth, which is erasing optimism from just a few years ago that some countries' emissions might be peaking. Elsewhere, virtually no country is reducing emissions fast enough to balance out the growth.

The details: The emissions are growing by a best estimate of 2.7% compared to 2017, according to the reports by the Global Carbon Project, which studies the carbon cycle and closely tracks emissions worldwide.

  • China and India's massive increases have been driven by continued coal use and economic growth drove the increase.
  • China is expected to see an estimated 4.7% increase in emissions for 2018.
  • India, too, is now expected to see a steep increase, despite the rapid deployment of renewables in that nation. Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are expected to grow by 6.3% in 2018.
  • In the U.S., emissions had declined at 1.2% per year since 2007, but in 2018 there is expected to be an increase of about 2.5%.

The bottom line: China's reliance on coal is a big problem — and it's not going to end anytime soon. “There was hope that China was rapidly moving away from coal power generation, but the last two years has shown it will not be so easy for China to say farewell to coal quickly," said Jan Ivar Korsbakken, senior researcher at CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Oslo.

"Coal is likely to dominate the Chinese energy system in the next decade, even if the skyrocketing growth seen in the mid-2000s is unlikely to return."

Go deeper: Carbon emissions rise again in 2018, new report finds

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