Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Carbon emissions flat for the third straight year; 22 years left at current rate to stay under 2C

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…Scientists published a projection suggesting that for the third straight year, global carbon dioxide emissions did not increase much in 2016. The news comes from the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists who measure how much carbon dioxide humans emit each year, as well as how much is subsequently absorbed by plants, land surfaces and oceans. The difference between the two determines the amount of carbon dioxide that remains in the atmosphere and drives global warming.

this flattening occurred despite steady global economic growth above 3 percent, which has typically been coupled with higher emissions. And now, the group reports, 2016 appears to be similar to 2014 and 2015, based on early projections. It will be about a 0.2 percent increase above the emissions levels of 2015, the group calculates, or barely a rise at all….

China saw carbon dioxide emissions decrease by 0.7 percent in 2015 and is forecast to see an additional 0.5 percent decline in 2016. U.S. emissions are falling even faster. They declined by 2.6 percent in 2015 and are expected to fall an additional 1.7 percent this year…By comparison, in 2015 there was strong 5.2 percent emissions growth in India.

slightly more than 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide are expected to have been emitted in 2016 from fossil fuel use and industrial activity. And after the oceans and the land take away their part, the rest of that carbon will stay there for a very long time, steadily warming the planet.

(That 36 billion tons does not include emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane, or the releases of additional carbon dioxide from deforestation and other nonindustrial causes. Including these gases and sources only increases our impact on the planet further.)…

…if global warming is ever to stop — and if we’re ever to cool the planet back down again — eventually emissions have to go to zero. Thirty-six billion tons is very far, indeed, from that. In fact, it’s looking increasingly likely that we may have to find some way to make emissions go negative (pulling more from the air than we put in) in the second half of this century.

The new research also suggests that, starting in 2017, the world will have only 800 billion tons, or gigatons, of carbon dioxide left to emit if it wants to preserve a two-thirds chance of preventing the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. This is the remaining global carbon “budget.” Based on emissions of 36 billion tons per year, we would bust the budget in 22 years….

Global Carbon Project: http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/

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