Researchers had hoped global carbon emissions had peaked after three stable years – but a new projection shatters those hopes. The Global Carbon Project and University of East Anglia (UEA) revealed carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could grow by two percent in 2017. Future Earth executive director Amy Luers described the news as a “giant leap backward for humankind.”
Researchers presented the information at COP23 in Bonn, Germany. They’re pointing to China’s activities as the main cause – CO2 emissions there are projected to grow by around 3.5 percent. Coal use is expected to increase in China and the United States in 2017 – after decreases since 2013.
CO2 emissions are projected to go down in America and the European Union, by 0.4 percent and 0.2 percent respectively – both smaller declines than during the prior 10 years. 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.
UEA’s Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research director Corinne Le Quéré said in a statement, “With global CO2 emissions from human activities estimated at 41 billion tonnes for 2017, time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below two degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees Celsius. 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 favoring more powerful storms. This is a window into the future.”
The researchers said there are uncertainties in our ability to estimate emissions changes – Glen Peters of the CICERO Center for International Climate Research and lead author on a study said it could take up to 10 years to independently verify a change in emissions based on measurements of CO2 atmospheric concentrations.
The research was published simultaneously in the journals Environmental Research Letters, Nature Climate Change, and Earth System Science Data Discussions, with scientists from around the world contributing to the studies.