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Driven By China, Global Carbon Emissions Rise in 2017

Driven By China, Global Carbon Emissions Rise in 2017

Global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels have risen again after a three-year hiatus. They're pointing to China's activities as the main cause - Carbon dioxide emissions there are projected to grow by around 3.5 percent.

Still, the report estimates that USA carbon emissions will likely fall this year by 0.4 percent - despite the Trump administration's policies favoring fossil fuels over renewable energy. India's emissions are projected to increase by around two percent - but that's down from more than six percent a year in the last decade. In the United States, some of that decline is likely due to a slowdown in the use of natural gas, but some is also due to the fact that coal use is projected to increase for the first time in five years.

But the GCP, a global research project within the Future Earth research initiative on global sustainability, says that while emissions may prove to have risen by 2% in 2017, it is not possible to say whether this is a return to growth, or a one-off increase.

"By continuing to cause this inexorable rise in Carbon dioxide we are pushing the climate closer and closer to the edge of our comfort zone", said Professor Richard Betts, of the University of Exeter and the Met Office Hadley Centre.

"This year we have seen how climate change can amplify the impacts of hurricanes with more intense rainfall, higher sea levels and warmer ocean conditions favouring more powerful storms".

In the USA and European Union, on the other hand, emissions came down by 0.4 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively.

The world's rate of carbon emissions is rising again after staying steady for three years, according to a comprehensive study released today.

The report authors noted large uncertainties in the data persist and the true growth figure may be anywhere between 1 and 3%.

"To meet Paris we'd need to cut [emissions by] 18 to 20 per cent compared to current levels - which equals a 1.5 to 1.7 per cent reduction per year", Professor Jotzo said.

China's emissions are projected to grow by 3.5% (0.7% to 5.4%), driven by a rise in coal consumption (GDP up 6.8%).

Renewable energy has increased rapidly at 14% per year over the last five years - albeit from a very low base. This stable period, following a growth in emissions of more than 3% annually in the 2000s, fed hopes that many countries were succeeding in separating successful economy-building from increases in world temperatures.

It estimates that 37 billion tonnes of Carbon dioxide will be emitted from burning fossil fuels, the highest total so far.

"Even though we may detect a change in emission trend early, it may take as much as 10 years to confidently and independently verify a sustained change in emissions using measurements of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide", said Dr Peters.

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit think-tank who was not involved in the study, said carbon emissions per unit of GDP were falling.

"Policy makers in Bonn are preparing for the Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement, that will start in 2018 and occur every five years, and this puts huge pressure on the scientific community to develop methods and perform measurements that can truly verify changes in emissions within this five-yearly cycle", said Prof Le Quéré.


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