Climate re­al­ity check: Global car­bon pol­lu­tion up in 2018

Yuma Sun - - OPINION -

WASH­ING­TON — Af­ter sev­eral years of lit­tle growth, global emis­sions of heat-trap­ping car­bon diox­ide ex­pe­ri­enced their largest jump in seven years, dis­cour­ag­ing sci­en­tists.

World car­bon diox­ide emis­sions are es­ti­mated to have risen 2.7 per­cent from 2017 to 2018, ac­cord­ing to three stud­ies re­leased Wed­nes­day from the Global Car­bon Pro­ject , an in­ter­na­tional sci­en­tific col­lab­o­ra­tion of aca­demics, gov­ern­ments and in­dus­try that tracks green­house gas emis­sions. The cal­cu­la­tions, an­nounced dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions to put the 2015 Paris climate ac­cord into ef­fect, puts some of the land­mark agree­ment’s goals nearly out of reach, sci­en­tists said.

“This is ter­ri­ble news,” said An­drew Jones, co-di­rec­tor of Climate In­ter­ac­tive, which mod­els green­house gas emis­sions and tem­per­a­tures but was not part of the re­search. “Ev­ery year that we delay se­ri­ous climate ac­tion, the Paris goals be­come dif­fi­cult to meet.”

The stud­ies con­cluded that this year the world would spew 40.9 bil­lion tons of car­bon diox­ide, up from 39.8 bil­lion tons last year. The mar­gin of er­ror is about one per­cent­age point on either side.

The Global Car­bon Pro­ject uses gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try re­ports to come up with fi­nal emis­sion fig­ures for 2017 and pro­jec­tions for 2018 based on the four big­gest pol­luters: China, the United States, In­dia and the Euro­pean Union.

The U.S., which had been steadily de­creas­ing its car­bon pol­lu­tion, showed a sig­nif­i­cant rise in emis­sions — up 2.5 per­cent — for the first time since 2013. China, the globe’s big­gest car­bon emit­ter, saw its largest in­crease since 2011: 4.6 per­cent.

Study lead au­thor Corinne Le Quere, a climate change re­searcher at the Univer­sity of East Anglia in Eng­land, said the in­crease is a sur­pris­ing “re­al­ity check” af­ter a few years of smaller emis­sion in­creases. But she also doesn’t think the world will re­turn to the even larger in­creases seen from 2003 to 2008. She be­lieves un­usual fac­tors are at play this year.

For the U.S., it was a com­bi­na­tion of a hot sum­mer and cold win­ter that re­quired more elec­tric­ity use for heat­ing and cool­ing. For China, it was an eco­nomic stim­u­lus that pushed coalpow­ered man­u­fac­tur­ing, Le Quere said.

John Reilly, co-di­rec­tor of MIT’s Joint Pro­gram on the Science and Pol­icy of Global Change, said the re­sults aren’t too sur­pris­ing be­cause fos­sil fu­els still ac­count for 81 per­cent of the world’s en­ergy use. The burn­ing of coal, oil and gas re­lease car­bon diox­ide, which warms the Earth . Reilly, who wasn’t part of the study, praised it as im­pres­sive.

Global Car­bon Pro­ject chair­man Rob Jack­son, a Stan­ford Univer­sity climate sci­en­tist, said he was dis­cour­aged.

The Paris ac­cord set two goals. The long-held goal would limit global warm­ing to no more than 1.8 de­grees from now, with a more am­bi­tious goal of lim­it­ing warm­ing to 0.9 de­grees from now.

The trend is such that the world would have to be lucky to keep warm­ing to 1.8 de­grees, let alone the lower goal, Le Quere said.

China in­creased its emis­sions to 11.4 bil­lion tons, while the U.S. jumped to a shade un­der 6 bil­lion tons. The Euro­pean Union spewed 3.9 bil­lion tons and In­dia soared to 2.9 bil­lion tons. Over­all, the world is spew­ing about 1,300 tons of car­bon diox­ide into the air ev­ery sec­ond.

Use of coal — the big­gest car­bon emit­ter — is ris­ing. And while coun­tries are us­ing more re­new­able fu­els and try­ing to re­duce car­bon from elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion, emis­sions from cars and planes are steadily in­creas­ing, Le Quere said.

Global car­bon diox­ide emis­sions have in­creased 55 per­cent in the last 20 years, the cal­cu­la­tions show. At the same time, Earth has warmed on av­er­age about two-thirds of a de­gree, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion.


IN THIS NOV. 28 FILE PHOTO, plumes of smoke rise from Europe’s largest lig­nite power plant in Belcha­tow, cen­tral Poland. Af­ter sev­eral years of lit­tle growth, global emis­sions of heat-trap­ping car­bon diox­ide surged in 2018 with the largest jump in seven years, dis­cour­aged sci­en­tists an­nounced Wed­nes­day.

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