Carbon Emissions Increase is at an All-Time High in 2018

Despite a lot of political talk about climate change action, 2018 looks set to be a terrible year for emissions with a new report finding an almost three percent rise in global emissions.

The Global Carbon Project (GCP) released the report, called the “Carbon Budget 2018“, to coincide with the COP24 meeting of world leaders in Poland this past week. It spells out a global rise in fossil fuel-guzzling cars and a resurgence in the coal sector that has led to a significant increase in global emissions over the past 12 months.

The group of 76 scientists from 57 research bodies across the world say this rise is particularly sharp, at a predicted 2.7 percent, compared to the 1.6 percent increase we saw in 2017. In fact, the 2016-2017 period was seen as a plateau in emissions where, it was hoped, we could finally begin to reduce them.

This was always an ambitious target, particularly because we knew that some countries had been capping their activity, but the hope was that this would soon end. In this instance, it appears this wishful thinking lacked the action to turn it into a reality.

“The global rise in carbon emissions is worrying, because to deal with climate change they have to turn around and go to zero eventually,” lead researcher Professor Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia told The Guardian. ”We are not seeing action in the way we really need to. This needs to change quickly.”

Coal use remains a particular problem for our emissions targets. Pleasingly, the levels we are seeing today are still far below the boom of 2013, where an increase in coal use hit an all time high, but use did still grow this year. The BBC notes that China, which is now the world’s largest emitter, saw emissions rise by 4.7 percent, largely as a result of its coal dependency.

China’s Coal Problem

The Chinese emissions problem largely because of government stimulus. The Chinese government has pumped significant amounts of money and resources into the manufacturing and engineering sectors of China’s economy. Because those sectors currently rely on fossil fuel use, particularly coal, this has naturally produced more emissions.

China shows no signs of slowing this activity down, with plans to build more coal-fired power stations.

At the same time, though, China does have ambitions of becoming one of the world leaders in sustainable energy. The country invested heavily in renewables.

Depending on the measures we use, China is actually sticking to a number of its Paris Agreement targets. The problem is, China’s size and output means that the country reaching its peak emissions level, where it will begin to reduce emissions year-on-year, can’t come soon enough.

You might argue that it is only right that China enjoy the same kind of sustained manufacturing boom we enjoyed in the West, but the world cannot afford that, if we are to remain on track to lower global emissions.

Carbon Emissions Increase is at an All-Time High in 2018

Infographic on Global Emissions released by in the Carbon Budget for 2018.

China is Far from the Only Culprit

China, of course, is not the only country that is contributing to this problem. The United States under the Trump administration is stripping away environmental protections and ramping up the fossil fuel industries, despite international and domestic warnings about how this threatens the environment and the US economy.

In terms of 2017-2018′s output, an unusually cold winter and a blisteringly hot summer have contributed to the past year’s US emissions. Europe as a body is also failing to meet its climate targets, with many countries failing to fund renewables and guzzling up oil and gas–something that has led to the oil and gas sectors’ continued prosperity.

There are some natural processes at work here, too. The scientists in this report note that, to some extent, we are victims of our own success.

By reducing air pollution in our atmosphere, we are effectively letting in more of the sun’s warmth. This is allowing the Earth to get warmer. We are also entering a warmer climate cycle, with the Pacific ocean in particular experiencing higher temperatures.

Normally, these factors would be mitigated because, to an extent, the Earth can take some warming. But because of how we have already warmed the planet, this adds even more pressure for us to reduce our emissions as quickly as possible.

The researchers in the “Carbon Budget” report do sound a note of optimism however: they believe that come 2020, there will be opportunity to make up some ground. In 2020, politicians have to return to the table and make stronger agreements and enter the next phase of the Paris COP21 agreement. We could have a new and more fact-oriented US President in 2020, as well.

The researchers also believe that there are signs of change, with investment in renewables having grown at an impressive pace — just not yet enough to offset coal and fossil fuel use.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

48 comments

Toni W
Toni W3 months ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W3 months ago

TYFS

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner3 months ago

Mike A. That is an absolute lie, which anyone can find out by looking up the facts. "Just one" volcano does NOT produce "more CO2 and ash than all of mankind in history" Humans spew 35+ billion tons of CO2 into the upper atmosphere and oceans yearly. The combined sporadic volcanic eruptions of all volcanos on Earth produce less than 1% of that. And why are you driveling about volcanic ash anyway, if a volcano erupts any ash from the eruption has the opposite of warming.. it has a cooling effect

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Caitlin L
Caitlin L3 months ago

thank you

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELD3 months ago

tyfs

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara3 months ago

Insulate your house; best thing you can do. Replace all bulbs and fluorescent tubes with LEDs.

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara3 months ago

The fossil fuel firms must realise this is their last chance to enrich themselves at the expense of the planet, before the renewables overtake them in terms of viability and cost/return.

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara3 months ago

th

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Mike A.
.3 months ago

A volcano, just ONE, produces more CO2 and ASH, than all of mankind has done through out all of history.
A singe North-Easter, cleans up more air, in a few days, as it crosses the states

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Mike A.
.3 months ago

1970-2015, US emissions of 6 common pollutants dropped an average of 70%. Can't say the same for France, Germany, India, China

As nations retreat from nuclear, 62 nations building & planning *1,600* new coal plants — 43% increase from today

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