Global carbon emissions to rise again in 2017

Carbon dioxide emissions have started rising again after a three year pause

Carbon dioxide emissions have started rising again after a three year pause. Miguel Navarr Getty Images

This year's rebound in emissions suggests that it's too soon to celebrate. Alas, it was not to be.

While carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel and industry in China are expected to rise about 3.5 per cent, after about two years of economic slowdown, India's contribution to the atmospheric build-up would go up by almost 2 per cent, the researchers have found.

Even though overall Carbon dioxide emissions have been relatively flat from 2014 to 2016, atmospheric concentrations saw a record increase in 2015 and 2016 (blue bars) due to El Niño conditions.

In India, emissions are projected to grow two per cent, with a range between 0.2 and 3.8 per cent this year, compared to six per cent annually averaged over the previous decade, due to significant government interventions in the economy (GDP up 6.7 per cent).

The renewed rise is a troubling development for the global effort to keep atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases below the levels needed to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. However, the individual pledges that each nation has submitted are no way near ambitious enough.

The projected 2% increase in carbon dioxide emissions comes from growth in China's smokestack industries and jeopardises the Paris climate agreement goals, say experts.

The 2017 carbon budget, now in its 12th year, says global carbon dioxide emissions from all human activities like fossil fuels, industry and change of land-use will reach around 41 billion tonnes carbon dioxide this year.

As the world's biggest emitter China's projected 3.5% increase is a big contributor to the global trend.

The research also says that coal use in China and the United States are expected to increase this year. Credit: Environmental Research Letters. "With every year that we wait we will have to stop using fossil energy even earlier".

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These are continuing to rise as a outcome of warming driven by ever higher greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, in response to the profligate global consumption of fossil fuels.

There was also some good news in the report: In the last decade (2007-2016), emissions in 22 countries (representing 20% of global emissions) decreased even as their economies grew.

He attributed the global increase largely to growth in Chinese emissions.

But there are signs that emissions reductions in these wealthier countries have decelerated of late.

United States emissions are projected to decline by 0.4% this year, more slowly than the decline of 1.2% per year averaged over the last decade because of a return to growth in coal use. Oil use increased and a rise in natural gas prices slightly increased coal use.

CO2 emissions are projected to go down in America and the European Union, by 0.4 percent and 0.2 percent respectively - both smaller declines than during the prior 10 years. India will, however, report lesser emissions growth (2%) while the country is expected to record nearly same GDP growth (6.7%) during the period. It's not clear how long this will last, as the country scrambles to offer electricity to its 300 million citizens still living in the dark.

The emissions from fossil fuel burning and industrial uses are projected to rise by up to 2 percent in 2017, as well as to rise again in 2018, the scientists told a group of worldwide officials gathered for a United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany. This is a tense conference, following President Trump's announcement that he will see to it that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement - which as of a year ago has entered into force. And there's no denying that renewables are continuing to grow around the world - making it hard to know quite what to make of the current emissions rise.

Right now, numerous Paris pledges remain fairly opaque. More ambitious action is required so that, hopefully, we might see emissions peak in 2018, instead of rising again.

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