Greenhouse gas levels soar to new highs
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