Carbon emissions up, 'time is running out,' warn scientists

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Global emissions held steady at 36.2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year from 2014 to 2016, but they are on track to hit a new record high of 36.8 gigatonnes in 2017. Some had hoped this three-year flatline signified a turning point in history, when humanity peaked fossil fuel use. The budget, which refers to the amount of carbon we can release into the atmosphere before we exceed climate change targets, has been determined by the Global Carbon Project.

The announcement comes as nations meet in Bonn, Germany, for the annual United Nations climate negotiations (COP23).

Global carbon dioxide emission is set to rise in 2017 after three stable years (2014-16) with China continuing to dominate the scene by recording highest increase as compared to last year. "This is very disappointing".

"Time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2 ºC let alone 1.5 ºC".

She added that the hurricanes and floods seen earlier this year were "a window into the future".

They say the growth in 2017 is mainly due to stronger emissions growth in China and other developing countries, and their findings show that the Paris goals could quickly slip out of reach.

"China generates almost 30% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and the ups and downs of the Chinese economy leave a signature on global emissions growth", said Jan Ivar Korsbakken, senior researcher at Cicero and co-author. "The use of coal, the main fuel source in China, may rise by 3% due to stronger growth in industrial production and lower hydro-power generation due to less rainfall". "That's a real concern".

On the flip side, the Global Carbon Project found, at least 21 countries have managed to cut their emissions significantly while growing their economies over the past decade, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Sweden.

Most of the increase in 2017 was reported to have come from China which emitted 3.5 per cent more than the previous year. It is more likely that emissions will plateau or have slight positive growth, broadly in line with national emission pledges submitted to the Paris Agreement.


Emissions from fossil fuels and industry will reach around 37 billion tonnes carbon dioxide in 2017.

In 2017, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry are projected to grow by 2% (0.8% to 3%).

But the GCP, a global research project within the Future Earth research initiative on global sustainability, says that while emissions may prove to have risen by 2% in 2017, it is not possible to say whether this is a return to growth, or a one-off increase.

Unexpectedly, India's CO₂ emissions will grow only about 2% this year, compared with an average 6% per year over the past decade. Similarly, the European Union emissions are expected to decline by 0.2% in 2017 when this group of 28 nations would collectively record 2.3% increase in their GDP.

However, there is one good news and that is renewable energy has increased rapidly at 14% per year over the last five years.

Every nation in the world has signed into the agreement.

"We must reverse this trend and start to accelerate toward a safe and prosperous world for all". There are now 22 countries, for example, for which CO₂ emissions have declined over the past decade while their economies have continued to grow.

The EU has now had three years (including 2017) with little or no decline in emissions, as declines in coal consumption have been offset by growth in oil and gas.

It could take as long as 10 years for scientists to confidently verify a sustained change in emissions using measurements of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide.

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