Global carbon emissions predicted to reach all-time high

“We are deep in the red and heading still deeper”, say scientists behind a report from Global Carbon Project, which predicts that global carbon emissions will reach an all-time high this year, with a staggering 37.2 billion tonnes produced in 2018 alone.

Smoke emissions from factory chimneys
Smoke emissions from factory chimneys
Kate Nicholson

Global carbon emissions are predicted to reach a record high by the end of 2018, according to a report from the Global Carbon Project, with a total of 37.2 billion tonnes produced in this year alone.

Despite a recent influx of warnings, the rate of emissions is going to continue to rise, something linked to the increasing number of vehicles used everyday and the continued use of coal as a source of fuel. The report states that carbon dioxide emissions will rise by 2.7 per cent this year, compared to a 1.6 per cent rise in 2017 and plateauing CO2 rates between 2014 to 2016.

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

“I hope that by 2020, when [governments] have to come back with stronger commitments, we will then see a turning point.”

The report, produced by 76 scientists from 15 countries, found that there are several main factors in play that have resulted in the surge in CO2 emissions. Growing economies in India and China have resulted in more coal-burning and more oil used in transport, whilst renewable energy has grown rapidly but not enough to offset increased use of fossil fuels. Meanwhile, in the US, emissions rose as a colder winter and a hotter summer demanded both heating and cooling in homes.

These three major nations have had a significant impact on the rate of CO2 emissions between them, with India increasing by 6.3 per cent, China by 4.7 per cent and the US by 2.5 per cent. Whilst the EU has plateaued in its emission levels, compared to previous years this is still a disappointing statistic, as the EU had a strong decade of decreasing emissions up until 2018.

“The global rise in emissions, even in rich, developed nations, is very concerning”, said Antonio Marcondes, Brazil’s chief negotiator at the UN summit. “Emission reductions are like credit-card debt: the longer they are put off, the more expensive and painful they become.”

Yet, the researchers who produced the report also claimed that the emissions trend can be turned around by 2020 – as long as drastic measures are taken in the transport, industry and farming sectors.

The research was launched at the UN climate summit at Katowice, Poland, where almost 200 nations who signed the Paris agreement of 2015 – which aims to limit global temperature rises to below 2ºC – are attempting to bring those pledges into reality.

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that a rise as little as 1.5°C has the potential be catastrophic for life as we know it. This recent report by the Global Carbon Project is just one of many signs that urgent action is needed if the goals of the 2015 agreement are to be achieved.

Naturalist David Attenborough also passed on a similar message at the UN climate summit, where he is taking the ‘People’s Seat’, a new role through which he will share and represent the concerns of ordinary people around the world. He said: “Right now we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”