World be­comes more pol­luted

Three stud­ies re­veal a sud­den jump, es­pe­cially in China.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney Dennis and Mooney write for the Wash­ing­ton Post.

Heat-trap­ping car­bon diox­ide emis­sions climb af­ter sev­eral years of lit­tle growth, dis­cour­ag­ing sci­en­tists who had hopes of reach­ing goals set in the 2015 Paris climate ac­cord.

Global emis­sions of car­bon diox­ide have reached the high­est lev­els on record, sci­en­tists pro­jected Wed­nes­day, in the lat­est ev­i­dence of the chasm be­tween in­ter­na­tional goals for com­bat­ing climate change and what coun­tries are ac­tu­ally do­ing.

From 2014 to 2016, emis­sions re­mained largely flat, lead­ing to hopes that the world was be­gin­ning to turn a corner. Those hopes have been dashed. In 2017, global emis­sions grew 1.6%. The rise in 2018 is pro­jected to be 2.7%.

The ex­pected in­crease, which would bring fos­sil fuel and in­dus­trial emis­sions to a record high of 37.1 bil­lion tons of car­bon diox­ide per year, is be­ing driven by nearly 5% emis­sions growth in China and more than 6% in In­dia, re­searchers es­ti­mated, along with growth in many other na­tions through­out the world. Emis­sions by the United States grew 2.5%, while emis­sions by the Euro­pean Union de­clined by just un­der 1%.

As na­tions are gath­ered for climate talks in Poland, the mes­sage of Wed­nes­day’s re­port was un­am­bigu­ous: When it comes to prom­ises to be­gin cut­ting the green­house gas emis­sions that fuel climate change, the world re­mains well off tar­get.

“We are in trou­ble. We are in deep trou­ble with climate change,” United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res said this week at the open­ing of the 24th an­nual U.N. climate con­fer­ence, where coun­tries will wres­tle with the am­bi­tious goals they need to meet to sharply re­duce car­bon emis­sions in com­ing years.

Guter­res was not com­ment­ing specif­i­cally on Wed­nes­day’s find­ings, which were re­leased in a trio of sci­en­tific pa­pers by re­searchers with the Global Car­bon Pro­ject. But his words came amid a litany of grim news in the fall in which sci­en­tists have warned that the ef­fects of climate change are no longer dis­tant and hy­po­thet­i­cal, and that they will only in­ten­sify in the ab­sence of ag­gres­sive in­ter­na­tional ac­tion.

The big­gest emis­sions story in 2018 ap­pears to be China, the world’s sin­gle largest emit­ting coun­try, which grew its out­put of planet-warm­ing gases by nearly half a bil­lion tons, re­searchers es­ti­mate. (The United States is the globe’s sec­ond-largest emit­ter.)

The coun­try’s sud­den, sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in car­bon emis­sions could be linked to a wider slow­down in the economy, en­vi­ron­men­tal an­a­lysts said.

“Un­der pres­sure of the cur­rent eco­nomic down­turn, some lo­cal gov­ern­ments might have loos­ened su­per­vi­sion on air pol­lu­tion and car­bon emis­sions,” said Yang Fuqiang, an en­ergy advisor to the Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil, a U.S. en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion.

China’s top plan­ning agency said Wed­nes­day that three ar­eas — Liaon­ing in the north­east Rust Belt and the big coal-pro­duc­ing re­gions of Ningxia and Xin­jiang in the north­west — had failed to meet their tar­gets to curb en­ergy con­sump­tion growth and im­prove ef­fi­ciency last year.

But Yang said that th­ese ar­eas were not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the whole coun­try and that China was gen­er­ally on the right track.

“There is still a long way ahead in terms of pol­lu­tion con­trol and emis­sions re­duc­tion, but we ex­pect to see more am­bi­tions in cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s plans and ac­tions,” he said.

In the United States, the rise in emis­sions in 2018 has been driven in part by a very warm sum­mer that led to high air con­di­tion­ing use and a very cold win­ter in the North­east, but also by a con­tin­ued use of oil driven by low gas prices and big­ger cars. U.S. emis­sions had been on a down­turn, as coal plants are re­placed by nat­u­ral gas plants and re­new­able en­ergy, but that mo­men­tum ground to a halt this year, at least tem­po­rar­ily.

In Europe, cars also have been a ma­jor driver of slower-than-ex­pected emis­sions re­duc­tions.

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