Carbon dioxide emissions soar to record level
Emissions of carbon dioxide – the greenhouse gas most responsible for global warming – reached an all-time high in 2018, scientists said Wednesday.
Global carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere “are now higher than they’ve been for millions of years,” said Rob Jackson of the Global Carbon Project and Stanford University, one of the study’s co-authors.
The emissions rose for a second year after little to no growth from 2014 to 2016. The increase in global carbon emissions, the largest jump in seven years, puts the goals from the landmark Paris Agreement on fighting climate change in jeopardy.
“We thought, perhaps hoped, emissions had peaked a few years ago,” Jackson said in a statement. “After two years of renewed growth, that was wishful thinking.”
The United States, which had been steadily decreasing its carbon pollution, showed a significant rise in emissions for the first time since 2013.
The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane into Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. Fossil fuels account for 81 percent of the world’s energy use.
According to the study, global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel sources – about 90 percent of all emissions from human activities – will reach a record high of more than 37 billion tons in 2018, an increase of 2.7 percent over emissions output in 2017.
“Emissions need to peak and rapidly decrease to address climate change,” said Corinne Le Quere of the University of East Anglia. “It looks like the peak is not yet in sight.”
The increase was driven by solid growth in coal use for the second year in a row, along with sustained growth in oil and gas use. The planet’s five biggest emitters in 2018 are China, the USA, India, Russia and Japan.