CO2 on track to hit record high in 2022 and shows no signs of falling: ScienceAlert

Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, the main driver of climate change, are set to rise by 1 percent in 2022 to reach an all-time high, scientists said Friday at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.

Oil emissions, fueled by the continued recovery in aviation, are likely to rise more than 2 percent from last year, while coal emissions – which some believe peaked in 2014 – will set a new record.

“Oil is driven more by the recovery from COVID and coal and gas are driven more by events in Ukraine,” Glenn Peters, director of research at climate research institute CICERO in Norway, told AFP.

Global CO2 Emissions from all sources – including deforestation and land use – will exceed 40.6 billion tonnes, just below the record level in 2019, early estimates for 2022 showed.

Despite wild signs of a pandemic recovery and an energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, the rise in carbon pollution from the burning of oil, natural gas and coal is in line with underlying trends, the data suggest.

And deeply troubling, said Peters, co-author of the study.

“Emissions are now 5 percent above what they were when the Paris Agreement was signed” in 2015, he noted.

“You have to ask: When are they going to go down?”

Carbon budget

The new figures show how dauntingly difficult it will be to reduce emissions fast enough to meet the Paris target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Warming beyond this threshold, scientists warn, risks triggering dangerous tipping points in the climate system.

Just 1.2 degrees Celsius to date has unleashed a crescendo of deadly and costly extreme weather events, from heat waves and drought to floods and tropical storms made more destructive by rising seas.

To meet the ambitious Paris target, global greenhouse emissions must be reduced by 45 percent by 2030 and to net zero by mid-century, with any residual emissions offset by the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.

To be on track for a net zero world, emissions would need to fall by 7 percent annually over the next eight years.

To put this in perspective: In 2020, with much of the global economy on lockdown, emissions fell by only 6%.

Over a longer period, the annual rise in CO2 from fossil fuel use has slowed, on average, to 0.5 percent per year over the past decade after rising 3 percent per year from 2000 to 2010.

To have a 50/50 chance of staying below the 1.5 C limit, humanity’s emission limit is 380 billion tonnes of CO2according to the study in Earth System Science Data, authored by more than 100 scientists.

At current emission trends of 40 billion tons per year, this “carbon budget” will be exhausted in less than a decade.

For a two-thirds chance, the budget shrinks by a quarter and will be used up in seven years.

“Deeply depressing”

In recent decades, scientists could usually draw a straight line between CO2 trends and the economy of China, which has been the world’s top carbon polluter for about 15 years.

In 2022, however, the Chinese CO2 Output is expected to fall by nearly 1 percent for the year, almost certainly reflecting an economic slowdown linked to Beijing’s strict zero-covid-19 policy.

Despite having to fight for alternative energy sources, including carbon-intensive coal, the European Union is on track to see its emissions fall by almost the same, 0.8%.

US emissions will likely increase by 1.5 percent and India by 6 percent.

The annual update also revealed that the capacity of oceans, forests and land to continue to absorb more than half the CO2 emissions have slowed.

“These ‘sinks’ are weaker than they would be without the effects of a changing climate,” said co-author Corinne Le Quere, a professor at the University of East Anglia.

Scientists who were not involved in the findings said they were grim.

“The global carbon budget for 2022 is deeply depressing,” said Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology at University College London.

“To have chances to stay below the international level[ly] agreed global warming target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, we must have big annual cuts in emissions – of which there is no sign.”

© Agence France-Presse

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