Global CO2 Rises for the First Time in 4 Years: What’s Going On?

A new report by the United Nations Environment Program says that CO2 rose in 2017 after a three year hiatus, so what’s going on?

The Emissions Gap Report concluded that economic booms around the world combined with a failure to cut carbon emissions as promised under international agreements like the Paris Climate Agreement, are responsible for driving up CO2 output globally.

The “emissions gap” refers to the gulf between where the world currently is on its greenhouse gas emission rates and where we need to be in order to keep global warming below catastrophic levels. In 2017, total greenhouse gas emissions reached a record high of 53.5 gigatons. This is up 0.7 gigatons on 2016′s figures.

That might not sound like much, but it actually has a major impact. Extrapolating what we know about temperature rise and its connection to emissions, the Emissions Gap Report concludes that if things stay as they are we are likely to see a rise of 3.2 C by the end of the century. The world is already suffering under a near-1 C rise in temperatures. We’re seeing more frequent wildfires and hurricanes, longer lasting drought seasons, and an increase in species loss. A 3.2 C rise is almost unimaginable, but saying it would be devastating seems redundant.

This report follows the October publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on global warming, where experts warned that the world was at the tipping point and that emissions would need to stop rising immediately if the globe was to keep emissions below 1.5 C over industrial temperatures.

Experts are not equivocating when it comes to just how serious these two reports’ findings are, with UNEP’s Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya saying in a press release, ”If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation. The science is clear; for all the ambitious climate action we’ve seen – governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach.”

Several countries are identified as the worst offenders for this failure to reduce emissions. Canada, the EU (including the UK), the United States, Australia, and Saudi Arabia are among a long list of states that are falling behind on their emissions goals.

The United States suffered another setback recently, when President Trump dismissed a landmark government report into US emissions. Trump has apparently decided that climate science is illegitimate. He said, “I do not believe it” when discussing the report but has so far not given any logical reasoning for his dismissal of this document.

The Global Emissions Gap report calls on governments to use fiscal policy to close the emissions gap. Jian Liu, UNEP’s Chief Scientist, explains: “If all fossil fuel subsidies were phased out, global carbon emissions could be reduced by up to 10 per cent by 2030,” and that “setting the right carbon price is also essential. At US$70 per ton of CO2, emission reductions of up to 40 per cent are possible in some countries.”

Carbon pricing is a means of driving down carbon use by agreeing on a certain cost for carbon that can gradually ramp up to encourage businesses to find alternatives. It’s an important, though not perfect, instrument for creating meaningful action on driving down fossil fuel usage.

There are some positives in the report. So-called independent actors, like city and regional governments, are proving invaluable in the climate change fight, with cities pledging to reduce their carbon emissions far above the goals national governments are setting. That national level action is lagging so far behind is alarming, though, and the emissions gap report signifies that this can’t be allowed to continue if we are to stand any hope of reaching our emissions reduction goals and fight catastrophic climate change.

While President Trump may not believe climate science, the facts aren’t going away: we either act now or we will pay the price.

Take Action

The Trump administration’s EPA wants to let oil and natural gas companies emit more methane, a greenhouse gas even more powerful than CO2. If we are going to stop catastrophic climate change, the Trump administration needs to reduce these emissions, not allow more of them. Join the almost 8,000 Care2 members and sign this petition from Mom’s Clean Air Force demanding that the EPA continue to regulate methane emissions.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

Photo credit: Getty Images.

60 comments

Paul B
Paul B2 days ago

What this author claims as facts is really nothing but speculation and "guesstimates" of what "might" happen. So far nothing promised to have happened has happened. And if you notice, the time lines for catastrophe get longer and longer. Now they are pushing estimates out over 3/4s of a century. I guess 10 to 15 years wasn't long enough given that none of the predictions came to fruition.
On a positive note, the US was ahead of emissions readings versus many other countries around the world, showing we didn't need the Paris Accord to get done what we should do.

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Lorrie O
Lorrie O4 days ago

CO2. Chastity. Obedience. 2, not 3, words.

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Celine Russo
Celine Russo6 days ago

They should take off the cars while helping trains, trams, buses and other public transport to reach even the most rural cities.

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Leanne K
Leanne K9 days ago

The countries mentioned and the E.U, you may as well say that’s at least half of the world

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Leanne K
Leanne K9 days ago

Of course Australia’s gets a mention

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John W
John W9 days ago

& Signed

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John W
John W9 days ago

TYFST

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heather g
heather g10 days ago

Canada can't pull the wool over everyone's eyes, although it often succeeds.

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Liliana Garcia
Liliana G11 days ago

Signed but i believe it will be the common people who will put a stop to all this suicidal trend. How? Taking over the government and its agencies!

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Dot A
Dot A11 days ago

I understand your position, Debra G. Yet, Nature also enabled our brains to make computers which can be utilized to assist us with calculations and solutions to enable the living creatures upon this planet to modify and correct the atmosphere's dangers. All we must do is believe we can do this, and then put into motion all the wisest sources of energies, and learn how to recycle our elements (also found in our garbage) so that we are contributing to the healthy balances rather than the toxic, life killing forms of chemicals. Yes, our Earth will find its balance again, maybe in millions of years,.... but, why just sit on our greedy little grubbing hands and let it happen. Why not use the brain nature gave us to find solutions and begin a healing wave of actions. We do have that possible avenue, but, the money lovers don't want to lose a dollar. I guess dying rich is more important to the greed-addicts.

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