Global CO2 Emissions Have Stalled for the First Time in 40 years, But it’s Not All Good News

Written by Michael Graham Richard

Good news, bad news

New data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) is showing that last year, for the first time in four decades, global CO2 emissions have “stalled,” remaining at about 32 billion tonnes, the same number as in 2013. “This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one,” said IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol. “It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.”

But while that’s encouraging, it shouldn’t lead the world to lose focus in its fight against global warming. The reason is simple: While the rate has stopped increasing, it doesn’t mean that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will stop increasing.

So far, every year we’ve been opening the carbon faucet wider, so that the bathtub has been filling up faster. There’s a leak at the bottom, so some is going out the drain (natural carbon sinks in the oceans and in forests, etc), but we’ve been pouring carbon in the tub faster than it leaks for a while now.

All that the IEA news about 2014 means is that last year, we didn’t open the faucet more, it just keeps filling the tub at the same rate as in 2013.

Said like that, it doesn’t sound so great, uh? But it’s still a good sign. I’d much rather see the rate stabilize, and eventually start to go down than to keep going up as it has been for decades. Hopefully it’s an early sign that we are decarbonizing our civilization, and turning more to clean sources of energy.

Prof Corinne Le Quere, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, said: “An important factor could be that China’s coal consumption fell in 2014, driven by their efforts to fight pollution, use energy more efficiently and deploy renewables.

“Efforts to reduce emissions elsewhere will have played a role, but there are also more random factors such as the weather and the relative price of oil, coal and gas.” (source)

This post originally found on TreeHugger.

Photo Credit: Kim Seng


Mark Donners
Mark Donner3 years ago

30 billion tons? That amount every year is a catastrophe. CO2 stays in the upper atmosphere for an average of 100 years, where it accumulates and warms up the Earth, which releases even more CO2 locked up in ice sheets and oceans. The amount that the earth can absorb and recycle naturally is a mere 20 billion tons, and that is the natural equilibrium when humans emit nothing.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Julianna D.
Juliana D3 years ago

The thousand mile destination begins with a step in a guided direction.

sandra vito
Sandra Vito3 years ago


Mahmoud Khalil
Mahmoud Khalil3 years ago


Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago


Grace Adams
Grace Adams3 years ago

Today's capitalists demand 10% return on total investment and 20% return on equity -- so their corporations MUST make enough profit to pay shareholders that 20% return on equity every year because that is their DUTY to their shareholders and thus their only duty to anybody. On top of that we have the political status of TOO BIG TO FAIL for our 400 to 500 largest corporations. So no wonder corporations MUST GRAB EVERYTHING THEY CAN GRAB EVERY YEAR!

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago

Grace A.,
Agriculture is not a big issue. Plants thrive on four main ingredients; sunlight, water, carbon dioxide, and nutrients. The increase in rainfall and atmospheric CO2 levels have increased two out of four, and sunlight has been stable. The recent warming has led to decreased frost and cold, increasing the growing season by several weeks in some areas. Historically, warmer periods have been more favorable for agriculture than cooler ones. Is there a maximum? We do not know, but it appears to be a long way off.

Lorraine Andersen

Any improvement is better than no improvement Take what we can get and with some hope and luck the numbers will start to decline.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams3 years ago

We need negotiations among those who have more to gain from business as usual for fossil fuel firms, those who have more to gain from effort to control anthropogenic global warming, and those whose gains and losses are more or less balanced between the two sides. Military leaders who actually lead our armed forces (not those who lobby for more and more dangerous weapons) want renewable energy more than weapons. Only obligation of every for profit corporation is shareholder profit. So it is a matter of negotiating how much money must be raised on what schedule to buy permission to replace fossil fuel with renewable energy, keep 80% of remaining fossil fuel reserves underground, and capture and store enough CO2 to stabilize Earth's climate in a range conducive to agriculture.