Green­house gas lev­els soar to new highs

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

Global green­house gas emis­sions are on course to reach a record high after ris­ing at the fastest rate for seven years fu­elled by in­creases in the US and China.

The chances of avoid­ing dan­ger­ous cli­mate change are di­min­ish­ing after a 2.7 per cent pro­jected in­crease in car­bon diox­ide emis­sions to 37.1 bil­lion tonnes, sci­en­tists said.

A sep­a­rate study found that Green­land’s ice sheet was melt­ing at its fastest rate for at least 350 years, which could lead to a rapid in­crease in sea lev­els.

The in­crease in emis­sions was cal­cu­lated by the Global Car­bon Project, a team of re­searchers from 50 uni­ver­si­ties and in­sti­tutes who study en­ergy statis­tics and eco­nomic fore­casts. They found the rate of in­crease had ac­cel­er­ated from the 1.6 per cent recorded last year and no change from 2014-16.

China ex­tended its lead as the high­est emit­ting coun­try, ac­count­ing for 27 per cent of the to­tal be­cause of a con­struc­tion boom and eco­nomic growth, the study in Na­ture said.

An in­crease in car jour­neys in the US con­trib­uted to emis­sions there ris­ing by a pro­jected 2.5 per cent this year, hav­ing de­clined for sev­eral years. An in­crease in the num­ber of flights in the EU was partly re­spon­si­ble for its over­all emis­sions de­clin­ing by only 0.7 per cent, less than half the an­nual rate of de­cline it had achieved in re­cent years.

The re­search found ef­forts by some coun­tries to cut con­sump­tion of coal were can­celled out by in­creases else­where, with over­all coal use grow­ing and on course to ex­ceed its 2013 peak. The use of oil use is grow­ing in most parts of the world.

Corinne Le Quere, the lead re­searcher and pro­fes­sor of cli­mate change at the Univer­sity of East An­glia, said that the boom in wind and so­lar power was not keep­ing pace with grow­ing de­mand for en­ergy from fos­sil fu­els. She said: ‘‘To limit global warm­ing to the Paris agree­ment goal of 1.5C, CO2 emis­sions would need to de­cline by 50 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero by about 2050. We are a long way from this and much more needs to be done be­cause if coun­tries stick to the com­mit­ments they have al­ready made we are on track to see 3C of global warm­ing.’’

Anal­y­sis of lay­ers of ice in Green­land dat­ing back 350 years found that sur­face melt­ing be­tween 2004 and 2013 was greater than in any other tenyear pe­riod. The rate of run-off is ‘‘likely to be un­prece­dented over the last 6,800-7,800 years’’, the study, also in Na­ture, added. Sarah Das, one of the au­thors from Woods Hole Oceano­graphic In­sti­tu­tion in the US, said: ‘‘From a his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, to­day’s melt rates are off the charts.’’

The re­searchers also said that Green­land’s ice sheet, which locks up the equiv­a­lent of about 9m of sea level rise, could reach a tip­ping point at about 1.5C to 2C of warm­ing when rapid melt­ing would be­come ir­re­versible.

The world has al­ready warmed by al­most 1C since pre-in­dus­trial times.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) said meet­ing in­ter­na­tional goals to tackle cli­mate change could save about a mil­lion lives a year by 2050 from re­duc­tions in air pol­lu­tion. – The Times

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