Coal-fired Nanticoke Generating Station, Ontario, Canada, now being converted to 44-MW solar farmEnlarge Photo
Global efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions may be starting to pay off, suggests a recent study.
Last month, scientists released an assessment that suggests global carbon emissions did not increase significantly in 2016.
That makes this the third year in a row that carbon emissions have remained flat.
The assessment comes from the Global Carbon Project, which measures how much carbon dioxide (CO2) humans emit each year, and how much is subsequently absorbed by the environment.
The difference between those two figures represents the amount of CO2 that remains in the atmosphere and contributes to climate change.
In 2016, the group calculated that emissions will only rise by 0.2 percent over 2015.
Coal, by Flicker user oatsy40 (Used Under CC License)Enlarge Photo
That finding was part of a large-scale study published in the journal Earth System Science Data that involved 67 researchers working at multiple academic institutions.
The leveling off of CO2 emissions is attributable to a decline in emissions in the U.S. and China, Glen Peters, one of the study's contributors, told The Washington Post.
Those countries are the worst offenders when it comes to carbon emissions, and both achieved their decreases largely by cutting consumption of coal, Peters said.
China reduced carbon emissions by 0.7 percent in 2015, and an additional 0.5 percent in 2016, according to the study.
U.S. emissions declined 2.6 percent in 2015, and are projected to decrease by an additional 1.7 percent this year.
Not all countries managed to cut emissions, though. In 2015, emissions in India increased by 5.2 percent, for example.
Oil field (Image: Flickr user johnny choura, used under CC license)Enlarge Photo
The study focuses solely on CO2 emissions, and does not include emissions of other greenhouse gases, including methane.
It also does not include releases of CO2 from nonindustrial sources like deforestation.
Nonetheless, the study hints at the possibility that global CO2 emissions are plateauing.
The next step, then, would be working to ensure that they start to decline significantly.
Smog in Dehli, India (by Flickr user Mfield)Enlarge Photo
Global carbon emissions are still 63 percent above 1990 levels, the study noted.
It predicts that in 2017, the world will have only 800 billion tons of CO2 left to emit before eliminating a two-thirds chance of preventing the planet from warming above 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Climate scientists generally consider 2 degrees Celsius to be the tipping point for irrevocable climate change.
Researchers estimate the world emitted 36 billion tons of CO2 in 2016; at that rate the 800-billion-ton "budget" would be exhausted in just 22 years.
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