Global Carbon Emissions Are Predicted to Hit Record High in 2018

A new report from the Global Carbon Project anticipates an unprecedented rise in carbon dioxide emissions around the world.

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Dec 5 2018, 9:54pm

Image: Martin Muránsky/Shutterstock

The world’s carbon dioxide emissions reached their apex this year, setting a troubling historic high according to a new report published on Wednesday by an international research cooperative.

Global carbon emissions are projected to increase by 2.7 percent in 2018, following a growth of 1.6 percent in 2017, the report found. These estimates mean that this year Earth is set to emit roughly 37.1 billion metric tons of carbon, a number the New York Times compared to approximately 100,000 times the weight of the Empire State Building.

The report by the Global Carbon Project comes amid major UN climate talks in Poland where President Donald Trump is markedly absent.

Between 2014 and 2016, the report stated, emissions had plateaued—partly a result of reduced coal consumption in the US and China, better energy efficiency, and more renewable energy.

“We thought, perhaps hoped, emissions had peaked a few years ago,” Stanford University professor and Global Carbon Project scientist Rob Jackson said in a statement. “After two years of renewed growth, that was wishful thinking.”

A few countries are largely to blame for the rising emissions. In 2017, 27 percent of global emissions were attributed to China, 15 percent to the US, and 17 percent to India and EU nations.

Emissions are expected to grow this year by nearly 5 percent in China, more than 6 percent in India, and 2.5 percent in the US. Emissions from EU nations dropped by less than 1 percent.

The US is the world’s second largest emitter of carbon, and may have seen its output rise for a couple of reasons. Economic stressors may have loosened regulations around air quality and carbon emissions in some areas. And hotter summers and cooler winters recently may have upped energy usage.

The report is one of several studies this year that stressed the urgency of climate action.

It underscores predictions from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that global warming is accelerating like a “speeding freight train,” seven scientists said of the Global Carbon Project’s findings in Nature Commentary on Monday.

An IPCC report published in October cautioned that unchecked emissions would cause the planet to warm 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels by 2040—an extreme scenario with catastrophic consequences such as widespread drought, flooding, and food shortages.

A 1,600-page climate report issued in November by the US government also warned of the likelihood of these extreme scenarios. President Trump responded to the findings, saying, “I don’t believe it.”