Dec 3, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Global carbon emissions rise again — but more slowly

A chimney of a brick factory emits smoke during sunset in Jalandhar on May 31, 2018.

A chimney of a brick factory emits smoke during sunset in Jalandhar, India, 2018. Photo: Shammi Mehra/AFP via Getty Images

The growth of global carbon dioxide emissions slowed this year as coal consumption dipped, per new data from a research consortium called the Global Carbon Project.

Why it matters: It underscores how the emissions trajectory is nowhere close to the steep cuts scientists say are needed in the years and decades ahead to meet the goals of the Paris climate deal.

Where it stands: The report projects that emissions will be up 0.6% this year, compared to a 2.1% rise in 2018, according to the tally of CO2 from fossil fuels and industrial processes.

  • However, the estimated change this year ranges from a dip of 0.2% to an increase of 1.5%, which means that a slight decline can't be ruled out, the authors said.
  • The data arrives amid the major United Nations climate change conference in Madrid, where UN officials hope to lay the groundwork for nations to implement more ambitious policies.

The big picture: While use of coal — the most CO2-emitting fuel — fell slightly this year, that was offset by rising oil and natural gas consumption, so the overall movement is still upward.

“Carbon dioxide emissions must decline sharply if the world is to meet the ‘well below 2°C’ mark set out in the Paris Agreement, and every year with growing emissions makes that target even more difficult to reach,” said Robbie Andrew of the CICERO Center for International Climate Research, which is part of the Global Carbon Project.

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Go deeper: Nothing is happening remotely fast enough to save the planet

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