CO2 Emissions Reached an All-Time High in 2018

In “CO2 Emissions Reached an All-Time High in 2018,” by Chelsea Harvey writing in Scientific American, Harvey reports on the findings by a panel of scientists who concluded that 2018 had the highest CO2 emissions ever.

As the demand for energy continues to increase worldwide, carbon emissions have accelerated with big year-over-year increases, especially since 2016. Global Carbon Project, a group of climate researchers, released a report claiming that global carbon emissions reached an all-time high in 2018. Carbon emissions increased by 1.6 percent in 2017, followed by a 2.7 increase in 2018. The Global Carbon Project projected in December of 2018 that by the end of that year carbon dioxide emissions will reach a high of 37.1 billion metric tons. Sadly, this comes after emissions stabilized from 2014 to 2016 primarily due to a decrease in coal use in China and India and the United States moving towards renewables and natural gas. Over the last two years, China and India have increased their coal use and in 2018, the United State’s had a 2.5 percent increase in emissions.

In October of 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claimed that global emissions would need to be cut in half by 2030 and hit net zero by 2050. In November, the panel published a second report describing the ever-growing “emissions gap”: the difference between the Paris climate targets and the reality of nations’ actions to reach those objectives. In fact, to reach the Paris target of a 1.5°C increase in temperature, we would need to quintuple current Paris commitments.

There are two primary issues when it comes to decreasing emissions: quicker reduction in countries that are already reducing emissions and restricting countries that are growing and increasing their annual emissions. The first can be accomplished by replacing fossil fuels with clean energy, yet the second raises more complex issues. Many developing countries need access to electricity and energy for their economies to grow, yet still comes at the price of increasing world-wide emissions. However, there is hope. Christiana Figueras, former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, and co-authors in a comment on Nature said we need government policy that will “ensure that the exponential curve of solutions outpaces that of climate impacts and drives net emissions to zero by 2050.”

Click this link to read the article in Scientific American, “CO2 Emissions Reached an All-Time High in 2018,” by Chelsea Harvey.