Global carbon dioxide emissions rise to new record high in 2018

After several years of little growth, global emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide surged in 2018 with the largest jump in seven years. Picture: AP
After several years of little growth, global emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide surged in 2018 with the largest jump in seven years. Picture: AP
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Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry have risen by more than 2 per cent in 2018 to reach new record highs, scientists have said.

A new study found “strong growth” in emissions of an estimated 2.7 per cent this year, mainly due to an increase in the use of coal, though it remains below 2013 highs, as well as oil to power cars, lorries and flights, and gas.

It marks the second year in a row in which the amount of pollution being put into the atmosphere has risen, after 2017 saw carbon emissions increase 1.6 per cent.

That followed a three-year hiatus in rising emissions from burning fossil fuels and industrial processes such as making concrete, which had raised hopes that greenhouse gases were peaking and would soon start to decline.

The figures were revealed as negotiators meet in Poland to draw up a rulebook to deliver the Paris Agreement on climate change, under which countries agreed to limit warming to “well below 2C” above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to curb temperatures to the safer 1.5C level.

Countries are also under pressure to work towards increasing, by 2020, their national pledges to cut the emissions that cause climate change, as current plans put the world on a path to more than 3C of warming by 2100.

The research by the Global Carbon Project is published in the journals Nature, Earth System Science Data and Environmental Research Letters.

Lead researcher Professor Corinne Le Quere, from the University of East Anglia, said: “We are seeing a strong growth of global carbon dioxide emissions once again.

“Emissions need to peak and rapidly decrease to address climate change.

“With this year’s growth in emissions, it looks like the peak is not yet in sight.”

The research found:

- Chinese emissions, which make up more than a quarter of the global total, grew by around 4.7 per cent;

- US emissions also grew about 2.5 per cent after several years in decline, largely due to weather conditions which led to more heating and cooling;

- Emissions for the European Union, which has unveiled plans to be “climate neutral” with zero emissions overall by 2050, look set for a small decline of just 0.7 per cent.

- India’s emissions have grown about 6.3 per cent, with coal, oil and gas all seeing an increase as the economy grows, although wind and solar are also on the rise.

Overall, carbon emissions from fossil fuels and industry rose to 37.1 billion tonnes in 2018, with a further five billion tonnes from deforestation and other human activities, bringing the overall total to 41.5 billion tonnes.