Global carbon dioxide emissions projected to rise after three stable years

November 13, 2017

By the end of 2017, global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and industry are projected to rise by about 2% compared with the preceding year, with an uncertainty range between 0.8% and 3%. The news follows three years of emissions staying relatively flat.

That's the conclusion of the 2017 Global Carbon Budget, published 13 November by the Global Carbon Project (GCP) in the journals Nature Climate Change, Environmental Research Letters and Earth System Science Data Discussions.

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

Lead researcher Prof Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, said: "Global carbon dioxide emissions appear to be going up strongly once again after a three-year stable period. This is very disappointing."

"With global carbon dioxide emissions from all human activities estimated at 41 billion tonnes for 2017, time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2 ºC let alone 1.5 ºC."

"This year we have seen how climate change can amplify the impacts of hurricanes with stronger downpours of rain, higher sea levels and warmer ocean conditions favouring more powerful storms. This is a window into the future. 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."

China's emissions account for 28% of global emissions. Budget co-author Glen Peters, research director at CICERO in Oslo, who led one of the studies, said: "The return to growth in global emissions in 2017 is largely due to a return to growth in Chinese emissions, projected to grow by 3.5% in 2017 after two years with declining emissions. 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."

"Several factors point to a continued rise in 2018," said Robert Jackson, a co-author of the report, co-chair of GCP and a professor in Earth system science at Stanford University. "That's a real concern."

"The global economy is picking up slowly. As GDP rises, we produce more goods, which, by design, produces more emissions."

Yet the team said that despite the growth in 2017, it is too early to say whether this is a one-off event on the way to a global peak in emissions, or the beginning of a new period with upward pressure on global emissions growth.

In the long term, emissions are unlikely to return to the persistent high growth rates seen during the 2000s of over 3% per 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.

The 2017 carbon budget at a glance

Renewable energy has increased rapidly at 14% per year over the last five years - albeit from a low base.

The Global Carbon Budget is produced by 76 scientists from 57 research institutions in 15 countries working under the umbrella of the Global Carbon Project (GCP). The budget, now in its 12th year, provides an in-depth look at the amount of fossil fuels that nations around the world burn and where it ends up.

GCP is sponsored by Future Earth and the World Climate Research Programme.

Future Earth's executive director Amy Luers said, "This year's carbon budget news is a step back for humankind."

"We must reverse this trend and start to accelerate toward a safe and prosperous world for all. This means prioritising providing access to clean reliable energy to the hundreds of millions of people across the world without access to what many of us take for granted every day - electricity. Fortunately, now it is not only possible, but in most cases makes simple financial sense, to meet these electricity needs with renewable energy sources."

Emissions decreasing in 22 countries

There was also some good news in the report: In the last decade (2007-2016), emissions in 22 countries (representing 20% of global emissions) decreased even as their economies grew. Technologies like wind and solar power have expanded across the globe by about 14% annually in recent years, according to the report.

Jackson said that he's "cautiously optimistic" that the transition from fossil fuel burning to renewable energy will continue in the United States - even as the Trump administration rolls back policies aimed at tackling the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.

"The federal government can slow the development of renewables and low-carbon technologies, but it can't stop it," Jackson said. "That transition is being driven by the low cost of new renewable infrastructure, and it's being driven by new consumer preferences."

However, in 101 countries (representing 50% of global emissions) emissions increased in the presence of growing GDP.

Persistent uncertainties

Persistent uncertainties exist in scientists' ability to estimate recent changes in emissions, particularly when there are unexpected changes as in the last few years.

"When there are unexpected changes in carbon dioxide emissions or atmospheric concentrations, there are questions raised about our ability to independently verify reported emissions," Peters said.

Even though researchers may start to detect a change in emission trends early, it may take as much as 10 years to confidently and independently verify a sustained change in emissions using measurements of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide.

"The Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement will occur every five years, and this puts immense pressure on the scientific community to develop methods and perform measurements that can truly verify changes in emissions within this five-yearly cycle," Le Quéré said.
-end-
NOTES

This media release is part of the Global Carbon Budget 2017, the annual update by the Global Carbon Project. It is based on the analyses published here:

Le Quéré et al. (2017) Global Carbon Budget 2017. Earth System Science Data Discussions. https://doi.org/10.5194/essdd-2017-123

Peters et al. (2017) Towards real time verification of CO2 emissions. Nature Climate Change. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-017-0013-9

Jackson et al. (2017) Warning signs for stabilizing global CO2 emissions, Environmental Research Letters. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa9662

DATA & MULTIMEDIA

A full media package, including full papers, infographics and a video is available here: https://stockholmuniversity.box.com/s/th0jrm1koopkvt4zpzh2wawvv06s0nek

Data and figures: http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget

Data interface for exploring data: http://www.globalcarbonatlas.org

Before embargo lifts:

Request ESSD paper and infographics: press@uea.ac.uk

Global Carbon Atlas with country data: bit.ly/Emissions2017

User name: media
Password: fromLSCE2017

INTERVIEWS

Glen Peters
CICERO
Norway
glen.peters@cicero.oslo.no
47-9289-1638

Corinne Le Quéré
Tyndall Centre
UK
l.horton@uea.ac.uk
44-0-1603-592764

GLOBAL CARBON BUDGET AT COP23

Press conference:

Monday, 13 November; 9:30 to 10:00; Bula Zone, Bula 3 - Press conference Room 2

The panel will include Prof Corinne Le Quéré, Dr Glen Peters and Owen Gaffney (chair).

The focus of this event will be for media questions - therefore please do familiarise yourself with the paper and press materials ahead of time.

Side event:

Monday, 13 November; 15:00 to 16:15; WWF Pavilion (65 seats)

The panel will include Prof Corinne Le Quéré, Dr Glen Peters, Prof Kevin Anderson and Dr Youba Sokona (chair).

MEDIA QUERIES

Alistair Scrutton, Future Earth, Sweden: alistair.scrutton@futureearth.org, +46 707 211098

Owen Gaffney
Future Earth
Sweden
owen.gaffney@futureearth.org
46-73-460-4833

Daniel Stain
Future Earth
USA
daniel.stain@futureearth.org
1-831-238-3383

Future Earth

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.