Stud­ies lat­est to show wors­en­ing trend in planet­warm­ing gases

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page -

The world’s green­house gas emis­sions are ris­ing at an in­creas­ing pace, sci­en­tists warn.

The world’s green­house gas emis­sions are ris­ing at a faster pace in 2018 than they did last year, re­searchers said Wed­nes­day, the lat­est ev­i­dence that planet­warm­ing pol­lu­tion is pro­lif­er­at­ing again after a three­year lull in the mid­dle of the decade.

That trend is ac­cel­er­at­ing the Earth’s col­li­sion course with some of the most se­vere con­se­quences of cli­mate change, sci­en­tists warned.

World­wide, car­bon emis­sions are ex­pected to in­crease by 2.7 per­cent in 2018, ac­cord­ing to stud­ies pub­lished in three re­spected sci­en­tific jour­nals by the Global Car­bon Project. Emis­sions rose 1.6 per­cent last year, and from 2014 to 2016 emis­sions were largely flat, the re­searchers said.

In an ac­com­pa­ny­ing com­men­tary in the jour­nal Na­ture, sci­en­tists said the in­creases put the world on track with the high­est emis­sions tra­jec­tory mod­eled by the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change, a U.N. sci­en­tific group. That group warned in Oc­to­ber that if emis­sions con­tin­ued to rise at the cur­rent rate, the planet would warm 2.7 de­grees Fahren­heit above prein­dus­trial lev­els by 2040, open­ing the door to wide­spread food short­ages, wild­fires, coastal flood­ing and pop­u­la­tion dis­place­ment.

But the re­cent rise in global emis­sions, to­gether with other fac­tors, could ac­cel­er­ate the time­line, thrust­ing the Earth above that thresh­old of warm­ing by 2030, the sci­en­tists said. They com­pared the emis­sions in­creases to a “speed­ing freight train.”

Led in large part by China, the United States and In­dia, the world will re­lease a record 37.1 gi­ga­tons of planet­warm­ing emis­sions in 2018, ac­cord­ing to the re­searchers’ pre­lim­i­nary anal­y­sis and eco­nomic pro­jec­tions.

Even as coal has fallen out of fa­vor in some mar­kets, the rise in emis­sions has been driven pri­mar­ily by stronger de­mand for nat­u­ral gas and oil, sci­en­tists said. And even as re­new­able en­ergy gen­er­a­tion has ex­panded ex­po­nen­tially, it has not been enough to off­set the in­creased use of fos­sil fu­els.

“We’ve seen oil use go up five years in a row,” said Rob Jack­son, a pro­fes­sor of Earth sys­tem science and an au­thor of one of the stud­ies. “That’s re­ally sur­pris­ing.

“We thought oil use had peaked in the U.S. and Europe 15 years ago,” he said. “The cheap gaso­line prices, big­ger cars and peo­ple driv­ing more miles are boost­ing oil use at rates that none of us ex­pected.”

Mar­ket re­al­i­ties

In the United States, the world’s sec­ond­largest emit­ter of heat­trap­ping gases, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has moved to roll back reg­u­la­tions de­signed to limit emis­sions from ve­hi­cle tailpipes and power plant smoke­stacks.

And promis­ing tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances have some­times been off­set by mar­ket forces, Jack­son said.

“There are dozens of mod­els of elec­tric cars slated to come out in the next five years, so that’s great news,” he said. “And on the other hand, in the U.S. we have most of the ma­jor car man­u­fac­tur­ers say­ing they’re go­ing to get out of the sedan busi­ness and build SUVS and trucks.”

The world’s largest emit­ter is still China, which pro­duces 27 per­cent of global car­bon emis­sions, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. The United States ac­counts for 15 per­cent of emis­sions, the Euro­pean Union 10 per­cent and In­dia 7 per­cent.

China’s emis­sions are pro­jected to rise 4.7 per­cent in 2018, the re­port said. The coun­try is stim­u­lat­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing to coun­ter­bal­ance its slow­ing econ­omy and al­low­ing more coal­based man­u­fac­tur­ing that it had avoided in the past, Jack­son said.

U.S. emis­sions are ex­pected to rise 2.5 per­cent this year after sev­eral years of de­clines and de­spite a shift away from coal to­ward cleaner sources of en­ergy. Jack­son at­trib­uted part of the in­crease to a colder­thannor­mal win­ter in some parts of the coun­try and a hot­ter sum­mer in other parts, which in­flated de­mand for heat­ing and cool­ing.

In In­dia, a pro­jected emis­sions in­crease of 6.3 per­cent is linked to the coun­try’s ef­fort to pro­vide elec­tric­ity to 300 mil­lion peo­ple who lack it.

Loud, clear warn­ings

The new stud­ies were the lat­est to sound warn­ings about global warm­ing. In Oc­to­ber, a U.n.­backed sci­en­tific panel found that na­tions have barely a decade to take “un­prece­dented” ac­tions and cut their emis­sions in half by 2030 to pre­vent the worst con­se­quences of cli­mate change.

The day after Thanks­giv­ing, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­leased a re­port co­writ­ten by hun­dreds of sci­en­tists find­ing that cli­mate change is al­ready caus­ing in­creas­ing dam­age to the United States. That was soon fol­lowed by an­other re­port de­tail­ing the grow­ing gap be­tween the com­mit­ments made at ear­lier U.N. con­fer­ences and what is needed to steer the planet off its calami­tous path.

The new stud­ies were is­sued as del­e­gates from nearly 200 coun­tries were gath­er­ing in Poland to de­bate their next steps un­der the Paris cli­mate agree­ment. But the in­creas­ing global emis­sions are putting the goals of the Paris ac­cord — to limit warm­ing to well be­low 2 de­grees Cel­sius — fur­ther out of reach, re­searchers said.

The prob­lem of cut­ting emis­sions is that it leads to dif­fi­cult choices in the real world. A grow­ing global econ­omy in­evitably stokes more en­ergy de­mand.

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