'Bru­tal news': global car­bon emis­sions jump to all-time high in 2018

The Guardian Australia - - Environment / Science - Damian Car­ring­ton En­vi­ron­ment ed­i­tor

Global car­bon emis­sions will jump to a record high in 2018, ac­cord­ing to a re­port, dash­ing hopes a plateau of re­cent years would be main­tained. It means emis­sions are head­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to the deep cuts ur­gently needed, say sci­en­tists, to fight cli­mate change.

The rise is due to the grow­ing num­ber of cars on the roads and a re­nais­sance of coal use and means the world re­mains on the track to cat­a­strophic global warm­ing. How­ever, the re­port’s au­thors said the emis­sions trend can still be turned around by 2020, if cuts are made in trans­port, in­dus­try and farm­ing emis­sions.

The re­search by the Global Car­bon Project was launched at the UN cli­mate sum­mit in Ka­tow­ice, Poland, where al­most 200 na­tions are work­ing to turn the vi­sion of tack­ling cli­mate change agreed in Paris in 2015 into ac­tion. The re­port es­ti­mates CO2 emis­sions will rise by 2.7% in 2018, sharply up on the plateau from 2014-16 and 1.6% rise in 2017.

Al­most all coun­tries are con­tribut­ing to the rise, with emis­sions in China up 4.7%, in the US by 2.5% and in In­dia by 6.3% in 2018. The EU’s emis­sions are near flat, but this fol­lows a decade of strong falls.

“The global rise in car­bon emis­sions is wor­ry­ing, be­cause to deal with cli­mate change they have to turn around and go to zero even­tu­ally,” said Prof Corinne Le Quéré, at the Univer­sity of East An­glia,who led the re­search pub­lished in the jour­nal Na­ture. “We are not see­ing ac­tion in the way we re­ally need to. This needs to change quickly.”

The cur­rent Paris agree­ment pledges from na­tions will only limit global warm­ing to 3C, while even a rise of 1.5C will be dis­as­trous for many peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to the world’s sci­en­tists.

Le Quéré said: “I hope that by 2020, when [gov­ern­ments] have to come back with stronger com­mit­ments, we will then see a turn­ing point.”

The In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency’s data also shows ris­ing emis­sions in 2018. Its ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Fatih Birol, said: “This turn­around should be an­other warn­ing to gov­ern­ments as they meet in Ka­tow­ice this week.”

“Ev­ery year of ris­ing emis­sions puts economies and the homes, lives and liveli­hoods of bil­lions of peo­ple at risk,” said Chris­tiana Figueres, at the Mis­sion 2020 cam­paign, who was the UN cli­mate diplo­mat over­see­ing the Paris agree­ment. “We are in the age of ex­po­nen­tials,” she said, with re­new­able en­ergy and elec­tric cars ex­pand­ing rapidly, but with the ex­treme weather im­pacts of cli­mate change do­ing the same. “We have to en­sure it is the so­lu­tions ex­po­nen­tial curve that is go­ing to win the race.”

Prof David Reay, at the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh, UK, said: “This an­nual bal­ance sheet for global car­bon is com­pre­hen­sive and sci­en­tif­i­cally ro­bust. Its mes­sage is more bru­tal than ever: we are deep in the red and head­ing still deeper. For all our sakes, world lead­ers must now do what is re­quired.”

Har­jeet Singh, at Ac­tionAid In­ter­na­tional, said news of the emis­sions’ rise should gal­vanise those at the cli­mate sum­mit: “There’s way too much com­pla­cency in the air at these talks.”

The “dark news” of ris­ing emis­sions is merg­ing with two other alarm­ing trends, ac­cord­ing to Prof David Vic­tor, at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Diego, in an ar­ti­cle with col­leagues also pub­lished in Na­ture on Wed­nes­day.

Fall­ing air pol­lu­tion is en­abling more of the sun’s warmth to reach the Earth’s sur­face, as aerosol pol­lu­tants re­flect sun­light, while a long-term nat­u­ral cli­mate cy­cle in the Pa­cific is en­ter­ing a warm phase. Vic­tor said: “Global warm­ing is ac­cel­er­at­ing. [These] three trends will com­bine over the next 20 years to make cli­mate change faster and more fu­ri­ous than an­tic­i­pated.”

The Global Car­bon Bud­get, pro­duced by 76 sci­en­tists from 57 re­search in­sti­tu­tions in 15 coun­tries, found the ma­jor driv­ers of the 2018 in­crease were more coal-burn­ing in China and In­dia as their economies grew, and more oil used in more trans­port. In­dus­try also used more gas. Re­new­able en­ergy grew rapidly, but not enough to off­set the in­creased use of fos­sil fuel.

“There was hope China was rapidly mov­ing away from coal power, but the last two years have shown it will not be so easy to say farewell quickly,” said Jan Ivar Kors­bakken, at the Cen­tre for In­ter­na­tional Cli­mate Re­search in Nor­way.

In the three years since the Paris agree­ment was signed, fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions have in­vested more than $478bn in the world’s top 120 coal plant de­vel­op­ers, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the NGOs Urge­wald, BankTrack and part­ners. Chi­nese banks led the un­der­writ­ing of coal in­vest­ments, while Ja­panese banks led the loans, the NGOs found.

In the US, emis­sions rose as an un­usu­ally cold win­ter and hot sum­mer boosted de­mand for both heat­ing and cool­ing in homes. But it is ex­pected that emis­sions will start to de­cline again in 2019, as cheap gas, wind and so­lar con­tinue to dis­place coal – coal use has dropped 40% since 2005 and it is now at its low­est level since 1979.

The global rise in emis­sions, even in rich, de­vel­oped na­tions, is very con­cern­ing, said An­to­nio Mar­con­des, Brazil’s chief ne­go­tia­tor at the UN sum­mit: “Emis­sion re­duc­tions are like credit-card debt: the longer they are put off, the more ex­pen­sive and painful they be­come.”

Brazil reached its 2020 emis­sions tar­gets early, but fears of a rise in de­for­esta­tion un­der the new pres­i­dent, Jair Bol­sonaro, could re­v­erse this. But Le Quéré is op­ti­mistic that the rapid global rises seen in re­cent decades will not re­turn: “This is very un­likely.”

Pho­to­graph: Michel Euler/AP

Al­most all coun­tries are con­tribut­ing to the rise in emis­sions, with China up 4.7%, the US by 2.5% and In­dia by 6.3% in 2018.

Pho­to­graph: Andy Wong/AP

The last two years have shown it won’t be easy for China to say farewell to coal use quickly, ac­cord­ing to Nor­way’s Cen­tre for In­ter­na­tional Cli­mate Re­search.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.