Smokestacks [CREDIT: Global Climate Budget 2018]
Blame China—and India.
Global carbon emissions are on the rise, and hit record levels in 2018, after remaining flat in 2016 and experiencing a small gain last year, a new report shows.
The report by the Global Carbon Project came out just as world leaders gathered in Poland to discuss the next steps for reducing carbon emissions under the Paris Climate Accords. (And the U.S. set up a token booth to promote more efficient burning of fossil fuels.)
Per capita global warming emissions by country [Global Climate Budget 2018]
The Global Carbon Budget 2018 report showed that emissions of global warming carbon-dioxide increased 2.7 percent to record levels in 2018 as China loosened controls on new coal-fired power plants in response to an economic downturn. CO2 emissions in China rose 4.7 percent this year and account for more than a quarter of such global emissions, the report shows. Still, it says that the increases in China are not likely to be sustained, as they stem from an economic stimulus package designed to spur construction to boost the economy.
India had the second largest gains in greenhouse-gas emissions as it works to bring power to regions that have never had electricity before.
Other nations with the largest greenhouse emissions included the U.S., Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada. Overall, 15 percent of emissions come from the U.S. and 10 percent of all emissions from the European Union as a whole.
Although the U.S. had the largest decline in coal use, having closed more than 250 coal-fired powerplants since 2010, overall greenhouse emissions from the U.S. still increased as a result of an increase in driving and more demand for cooling and heating, the report says.
Global warming emissions targets vs actual [Global Climate Budget 2018]
In last year's study, emissions rose only 1.6 percent, and they had been flat for two years before that, making scientists optimistic that the world might be making progress on reducing emissions.
This year, the scientists' tone was decidedly more foreboding.
“The global rise in carbon emissions is worrying, because to deal with climate change they have to turn around and go to zero eventually,” said Prof Corinne Le Quéré, at the University of East Anglia, the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature told the British Guardian newspaper. “We are not seeing action in the way we really need to. This needs to change quickly.”
Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change for international charity ActionAid told CNN, "when we see emissions are on the rise, that clearly means impacts are going to be increasing on the ground. In developing countries, people are seeing their homes destroyed, they are losing incomes, they are forced away from their homes and end up living in an uncertain, insecure environment," he said. "If we don't bend the curve on rising emissions, we will not be able to deal with the impacts."