A comprehensive analysis by the Global Carbon Project (GCP) has shown that carbon emissions from fossil fuels will hit record levels this year, representing a brutal contrast with the need to cut emissions by half by 2030 to restrict global heating to 1.5C and avoid the most devastating impacts of the climate crisis.
The analysis which used multiple streams of data from the year to date to estimate emissions for 2022, found that fossil fuel-related CO2 is on course to rise by 1% to 36.6bn tonnes, the highest ever.
The researchers found that more burning of oil products is the biggest contributor, mostly because of the continuing rebound of international aviation after the pandemic continued emissions at this level would make 1.5C of global heating become more probable than not in the next decade.
The analysis showed that reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as pledged by many countries, now requires an annual decrease compared to the sharp fall in 2020 due to Covid-19 lockdowns.
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It further found that emissions from coal will return to the all-time peak seen in 2014. However, this is not driven by China but by India and the European Union. Gas burning remained level, but at the same record level seen in 2021.
The researchers said that while a glimmer of hope comes from the assessment of emissions from the destruction of forests, these have been declining slowly over the last two decades largely because of more new trees being planted rather than fewer being felled.
“When this decline is considered, global carbon emissions have been essentially flat since 2015,” they said. “However, until emissions start falling, huge amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide are still being pumped into the atmosphere every year”.
Recall that the UN secretary general, António Guterres, had told world leaders at Cop27 this week that “we are in the fight of our lives and we are losing. Our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator”.
According to the GCP analysis, emissions from China, the world’s biggest polluter, will decrease by 1% in 2022 because of the country’s stringent Covid restrictions and a collapse in the construction industry.
The EU is also expected to see a similar decrease because the 7% rise in coal emissions has been offset by a 10% fall in CO2 from gas consumption after Russia invaded Ukraine. However, US emissions will rise by 1.5%, with a surge in flights largely to blame while India will have the largest rise, 6%. This is due to higher coal and oil emissions, and India now emits more than the EU overall – although emissions per capita remain much lower.
Commenting, a climate scientist at the University of Exeter who led the study, Prof Pierre Friedlingstein said “this year we see yet another rise in global fossil fuel CO2 emissions when we need a rapid decline”.
“Leaders at Cop27 will have to take meaningful action if we are to have any chance of limiting global warming close to 1.5C.”
Story was adapted from the Guardian.