Carbon emissions from fossil fuels will hit an all-time high in 2022

Carbon emissions from fossil fuels will reach record levels this year, according to a comprehensive analysis. The finding represents a stark contrast to the need to halve emissions by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C and avoid the most devastating impacts of the climate crisis.

There are no signs of a necessary decline, the researchers said, putting additional pressure on countries whose representatives are meeting at the UN Cop27 climate summit in Egypt to take real and swift action. . Other scientists described the news as “grim” and “deeply depressing”.

fossil fuel emissions graph

A glimmer of hope comes from the evaluation of emissions due to the destruction of forests. These have slowly declined over the past two decades, but largely due to more new trees being planted rather than fewer trees being cut down.

When this decline is taken into account, global carbon emissions have remained essentially flat since 2015. However, until emissions actually start to decline, huge amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide are still being pumped into the atmosphere. atmosphere every year.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres made clear to world leaders at COP27 this week what that means: “We are in the fight of our lives and we are losing. Our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator,” he said.

The Global Carbon Project (GCP) analysis uses multiple streams of data year to date to estimate emissions for 2022. It found that fossil fuel-related CO2 is on track to rise 1% to 36.6 billion tonnes, the highest on record. The increased burning of petroleum products is the main contributor, mainly due to the continued rebound in international aviation from the pandemic.

Continued emissions at this level would make a global warming of 1.5°C more likely than not over the next decade, the researchers said. Reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as promised by many countries, now requires an annual decrease comparable to the sharp drop in 2020 due to Covid-19 lockdowns.

Coal emissions will return to the historic peak of 2014, according to the analysis. But unlike in the past, this is not driven by China but by India and the European Union. Gas burning remained stable, but at the same record level as in 2021.

Emissions from China, the world’s biggest polluter, will fall by 1% in 2022, the GCP found, due to the country’s tough Covid restrictions and a slump in the construction industry. The EU will also see a similar drop as the 7% rise in coal emissions was offset by a 10% drop in CO2 gas consumption after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

In contrast, US emissions will rise 1.5%, largely to blame for an increase in theft. India will see the biggest increase, 6%. This is due to higher coal and oil emissions, and India now emits more than the EU as a whole – although per capita emissions remain much lower.

“This year we are seeing a further increase in CO from fossil fuels around the world2 emissions, when we need a rapid decline,” said Professor Pierre Friedlingstein, a climatologist at the University of Exeter who led the study. “Cop27 leaders will need to take meaningful action if we are to have any chance of limiting global warming to nearly 1.5°C.”

“We are very far from where we need to go,” said Dr Glen Peters, a GCP fellow at the Center for International Climate Research (Cicero) in Norway. “Many countries, cities, companies and individuals have pledged to reduce their emissions. It’s a stark reminder that despite all this rhetoric, global fossil CO2 emissions are more than 5% higher than in 2015, the year of the Paris agreement.

“There is clearly no sign of the decrease needed to limit climate change to near 1.5°C.”

Professor Corinne Le Quéré, from the University of East Anglia, who was not part of the study, noted that the average annual increase in emissions was 3% during the 2000s, but that it is fallen to 0.5% over the past decade.

“We have shown that climate policy works,” she said. “If governments respond by boosting investment in clean energy and planting, not cutting, trees, global emissions could quickly begin to fall.”

A series of reports released ahead of COP27 revealed how close the planet is to climate catastrophe, with no ‘credible pathway’ to 1.5C carbon reduction in place. With goals already agreed at previous summits, COP27 hopes to drive action, but disagreements over the provision of climate finance by rich countries are proving a major stumbling block.

The 2022 GCP analysis is published in the journal Earth System Science Data and was produced by more than 100 scientists from 80 organizations around the world. The oceans and land absorb about half of humanity’s carbon emissions. However, the GCP found that this vital service was increasingly damaged by global warming, with the absorption of CO2 by land and ocean have declined by 17% and 5% respectively over the past decade.

GCP scientists are also concerned about future emissions. “Given that a further recovery in oil use is expected in 2023, if coal or gas use remains stable or increases, it is likely that global fossil CO2 emissions will continue to rise in 2023 without a concerted political effort,” said Robbie Andrew, senior scientist at Cicero.

Professor Vanesa Castán Broto, from the University of Sheffield, said: “The results of the [analysis] are dark. Carbon emissions continue to rise, and if this continues, climate change will reach a very destructive stage in a single decade.

“The report is deeply depressing,” said Professor Mark Maslin, of University College London. “This sends a clear message to Cop27 leaders – the world must have meaningful global emissions reductions by 2023 if we are to have any chance of keeping climate change to 1.5°C.”

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