If you thought global emissions had peaked you were wrong

Study warns that current emission trajectory will lead to warming well beyond 1.5 °C mark

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 07 December 2018

A day after the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) released a report stating that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by developed countries declined by 13 per cent between 1990 and 2016, a new report says that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions grew by 1.6 per cent in 2017, and are expected to grow further by 2.7 per cent in 2018.

The Global Carbon Project’s report, titled ‘Global Energy Growth Is Outpacing Decarbonisation,’ estimates that after three years of little or no emissions growth, CO2 emissions from fossil fuel will reach a record high of 37 gigatonnes in 2018.

The study says that despite progress in 19 countries whose economies grew and emissions declined over the last decade, “growth in energy use from fossil fuel sources is still outpacing the rise of low-carbon sources.” These countries account for 20 per cent of CO2 emissions globally, says the report.

The study warns that current emission estimates will lead to warming well beyond 1.5°C mark. Country-wise emissions in 2018 were estimated with China projected to have a 4.7 per cent increase in emissions, followed by the United States at 2.5 per cent.

Among the most use fossil fuels, natural gas use has grown the fastest since 2012, while coal consumption saw a 0.9 per cent per year decrease on average. However, the study says that steep decline in coal use in Canada, US, and European Union (EU) could eventually be outpaced by increased coal use elsewhere.

In case of India, the study says that the coal consumption (mostly for electricity generation) grew at the rate of 4.8 per cent per year, and it now surpasses that of both the EU and the United States. “Sustained growth at this rate would double India's coal consumption in less than two decades and generate more than a billion tonnes of additional CO2 emissions yearly”.

It further says that oil consumption has increased at the rate of 1.4 per cent per year globally since 2012. China and India accounted for an increased oil consumption of 4-5 per cent — contributing most to the global increase, says the study. It further says that US and EU, where oil usage was supposed to have peaked, reported a rise in use by 1.3 per cent and 0.4 per cent respectively.  

The study says that after maintaining stable emission rate since 2012, China accounted for the biggest change in emission rates in 2018. It suggested that the country opting for policies to mitigate climate change and air pollution led to the substantial rise in use of natural gas.

“We thought, perhaps hoped, emissions had peaked a few years ago… that was wishful thinking. It isn’t enough for renewables to grow, they need to displace fossil fuels. So far, that’s happening for coal but not for oil or natural gas,” says Rob Jackson, professor of Earth system science in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

Lead researcher Prof Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and Professor of Climate Change Science and Policy at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom, says: “The growing global demand for energy is outpacing de-carbonisation efforts. This needs to change, and it needs to change quickly.”

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