Global CO2 Emissions Due to Hit New Record by End of 2019, Scientists Warn

Research has revealed global carbon emissions are due to hit a new record by the end of 2019, despite growth slowing in the past year.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are forecast to grow to a high of 37 billion tons by the end of the year, according to an article published in the journal Environmental Research Letters that paints a mixed picture of the situation.

On the one hand, CO2 emissions have fallen slowly in industrialized regions including the U.S. and the European Union. But they are rising in India, China, and the rest of the world, the researchers said.

Global fossil CO2 emissions have risen over the past three years, by 1.2 percent in 2017, and 2.1 percent in 2018. By the end of this year, scientists believe they will have risen by around 0.5 percent, between a range of -0.3 percent to 1.4 percent. This follows a temporary slowdown in CO2 emissions between 2014 and 2016.

Get your unlimited Newsweek trial >

Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Stanford University and chair of the Global Carbon Project which publishes a yearly carbon dioxide budget, told Newsweek the team provides a range of estimates as exact emissions won't be known until the year is over.

The U.S., China, and the European Union contribute around 52 percent of global fossil CO2 emissions, the scientists said.

After an increase of 2.8 percent in 2018 to 5.4 billion tonnes of CO2, emissions in the U.S. are projected to drop by 2.4 percent in 2019 "continuing a slow but steady" average decline of 0.8 percent per year from 2013 to 2018. Oil consumption is meanwhile predicted to drop slightly by 0.8 percent in 2019, after increasing by at least 1.3 percent a year between 2013 and 2018.

Get your unlimited Newsweek trial >

The team also predicted U.S. energy generation from coal will decline by a "remarkable" 13 percent from 2018, to levels not seen since 1965. The drop in CO2 emissions stemmed from coal being replaced by natural gas and "to a lesser extent" solar and wind power, as well as a 2 percent drop in electricity demand.

Meanwhile, China is expected to see an increase of carbon emissions of 2.6 percent by the end of 2019.

In 2018, the U.S. had per capital fossil fuel emissions of 16.6 tonnes, well above the global average of 4.8 tonnes per person. In contrast, Africa's average is 1.1 per person, and 2.0 in India. China's is 7 tonnes.

The scientists drew attention to what they described as "two under-appreciated trends" which indicate there will be long-term growth in oil and natural gas consumption.

In the U.S. and Europe, per capita oil consumption is already 5 to 20 times higher than in China and India. In Asia, more people are buying cars and flying by plane, which will likely increase global CO2 emissions from oil in the next decade and beyond.

At the same time, exports of liquefied natural gas are "surging," the authors wrote. This is lowering natural gas prices in Asia, and increasing global access to the fossil resource, they said.

These trends need to be counterbalanced with worldwide improvements in energy efficiency, reduced consumption, the decarbonization of the electricity grid, and a rapid spike in the use of electric vehicles, the experts argued. Technology to capture and store carbon should also be used, as well as a roll-out of renewable energy to replace, not supplement, fossil fuels

Referring to the post-industrial era rise in global temperatures, the scientists said: "even stable emissions at today's rates, let alone rising ones, make temperature targets of 1.5°and 2.0 °C less likely to obtain and more challenging and expensive to reach."

They said: "Replacing fossil fuels with low and no-carbon alternatives is critical for limiting climate change to 1.5° or 2°C, but only if such alternatives displace fossil fuels," they wrote.

More positivity, the experts also claimed "pathways to success are clear and attainable.

"We need to deploy them faster and more quickly than we have to date, while providing additional energy to hundreds of millions of people still living in energy poverty," they said. "Only then will CO2 emissions peak and, finally, begin to decline."

Study co-author Jackson told Newsweek: "This year's growth was slower than last year's. That's a glimmer of good news, but we need emissions to drop, not rise. This year's number is still a new global record."

"Despite all of the focus on youth movements this year, global carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise. Natural gas use is surging, and most solar and wind development provides new energy but doesn't replace fossil fuels," he said.

Coal use is plummeting in Europe and the United States because of cheaper natural gas and renewables, explained Jackson. "Consumer preferences and mandates for cleaner air are also playing a role," he said.

The actions of the average person are important for combating global warming, said Jackson, as well as policies put in place at a local and global level.

"Our own choices matter a lot for cutting our own carbon footprints. We can change what we buy, such as eating less meat. We can fly and drive less, reducing our energy consumption," he said. "Along with personal and local actions, we need stronger regional and global leadership to reduce emissions."

Pierre Friedlingstein, a professor of mathematics at the University of Exeter co-authored a paper published in the journal Earth System Science Data which complements the Environmental Research Letters article.

He said in a statement: "Emissions cuts in wealthier nations must outpace increases in poorer countries where access to energy is still needed."

car exhaust, fossil fuel, carbon emissions ,stock,getty
A stock image shows fumes rising from the exhaust pipes of cars. Scientists have charted the release of carbon emissions. Getty
Global CO2 Emissions Due to Hit New Record by End of 2019, Scientists Warn | Tech & Science