Carbon Dioxide Emissions Were Stable for Three Years—2017 Will See Them Rise

Carbon dioxide emissions are rising—again. 

After leveling off for three years, a report published Monday revealed that carbon dioxide emissions are expected to rise by the end of 2017 by about 2 percent. 

"Global carbon dioxide emissions appear to be going up strongly once again after a three-year stable period," said Corinne Le Quéré, a lead researcher of the 2017 Global Carbon Budget report and director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia. "This is very disappointing." 

RTS1JGSS Demonstrators dressed as Donald Trump and a polar bear are seen during a demonstration in Bonn, Germany, against the COP 23 U.N. Climate Change Conference on November 11. Reuters

The news arrives as hundreds of countries enter the second week of the climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, where leaders will discuss how to implement the standards set during the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The goal set in Paris was to keep global temperatures from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius. 

"With global carbon dioxide emissions from all human activities estimated at 41 billion tons for 2017, time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees Celsius," said Le Quéré. 

Global Carbon Budget 2017 Global Carbon Project

"All human activities" includes fossil fuels, industry and land-use change. Emissions from fossil fuels alone will reach around 37 billion tons. 

China's emissions added up to 28 percent of global emissions, which is expected to grow by 3.5 percent in 2017. China had decreased its emissions two years in row before 2017, but coal use may rise by 3 percent as a result of increased industrial production and lower hydropower generation due to less rainfall.

Indian emissions are expected to grow by 2 percent in 2017, compared with increases of 6 percent per year over the past decade. 

U.S. emissions are expected to decline by .4 percent, compared with an average decline of about 1.2 percent per year. European emissions are expected to decline by .2 percent, which is also lower than the average decline, 2.2 percent per year. 

The rest of the world's emissions—representing 40 percent of the global total—are expected to increase by 2.3 percent. 

Global Carbon Budget 2017 Global Carbon Project

"The global economy is picking up slowly," said Robert Jackson, a co-author of the report and co-chair of the Global Carbon Project. "As [gross domestic product] rises, we produce more goods, which, by design, produces more emissions."

He was referencing the common measure used to determine how a country’s economy is faring—GDP. Rising carbon dioxide emissions are generally associated with a rising GDP, but the report noted that 22 countries lowered their emissions while their economics grew. In 101 countries, emissions increased as GDP increased.

Renewable energy took some of the credit in the countries that managed to curb their carbon dioxide emissions while growing their economies. Technologies—including wind and solar power—have surged about 14 percent each year in the past five years, though the starting point was low.

RTS1JOAN President Donald Trump leaves after posing for a family photo during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila, the Philippines, on November 13. Reuters

President Donald Trump announced his intention to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement in June, which left the U.S. as the last country with such intentions after Syria signed the agreement last week. Despite rollbacks on various policies and the decision on the global climate agreement, Jackson said he is “cautiously optimistic” that renewable energy will continue to increase in the U.S.

"The federal government can slow the development of renewables and low-carbon technologies, but it can’t stop it,” Jackson said. “That transition is being driven by the low cost of new renewable infrastructure, and it’s being driven by new consumer preferences."

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