CO2 pollution from fossil fuels will reach an all-time high in 2022

CO2 pollution from fossil fuels will reach an all-time high in 2022


Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, the main cause of climate change, are on track to rise by 1 percent in 2022 and hit an all-time high, scientists said at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt on Friday.

Emissions from oil, fueled by the ongoing recovery in aviation, are likely to rise more than 2 percent year-on-year, while emissions from coal — believed by some to have peaked in 2014 — will set a new record.

“Oil will be more driven by the Covid recovery and coal and gas will be more driven by events in Ukraine,” Glen Peters, research director at the CICERO climate research institute in Norway, told AFP.

Global CO2 emissions from all sources – including deforestation and land use – will come in at 40.6 billion tonnes, just below 2019’s record levels, the first peer-reviewed projections for 2022 showed.

Despite the wild cards of the pandemic recovery and an energy crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine, the rise in carbon pollution from burning oil, gas and coal is consistent with underlying trends, the data says.

And deeply worrying, said Peters, a co-author of the study.

“Emissions are now five percent higher than when the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015,” he noted.

“You have to ask yourself: When are they going down?”

– CO2 budget –

The new figures show how dauntingly hard it will be to cut emissions fast enough to meet the Paris target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Warming beyond this threshold, scientists warn, risks triggering dangerous tipping points in the climate system.

Warming of nearly 1.2°C so far has triggered a crescendo of deadly and costly extreme weather events, from heat waves and drought to floods and tropical storms made even more destructive by sea-level rise.

To meet the ambitious Paris target, global greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 45 percent by 2030 and be net zero by mid-century, with any remaining emissions offset by removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

To be on the way to a net-zero world, emissions would need to fall by 7 percent annually over the next eight years.

To put that in perspective, emissions fell just 6 percent in 2020, when much of the global economy was in lockdown.

Over an extended period, annual CO2 growth from fossil fuel use has slowed to an average of 0.5 percent per year over the past decade, after growing at 3 percent annually from 2000 to 2010.

To have a 50/50 chance of staying below 1.5°C, humanity has an emission allowance of 380 billion tons of CO2, according to the study in Earth System Science Data, authored by more than 100 scientists.

With current emission trends of 40 billion tons per year, this “carbon budget” would be gone in less than a decade.

With a two-thirds chance, the budget shrinks by a quarter and would be used up in seven years.

– “Deeply depressing” –

In recent decades, scientists have usually been able to draw a straight line between carbon trends and the economy of China, which has been the world’s biggest carbon polluter for about 15 years.

In 2022, however, China’s carbon emissions are expected to fall by nearly 1 percent for the year, almost certainly reflecting an economic slowdown related to Beijing’s strict zero-Covid policy.

Although the European Union must seek alternative energy sources, including carbon-intensive coal, it is on track to cut its emissions by almost as much, 0.8 percent.

US emissions are expected to increase by 1.5 percent and India’s by 6 percent.

The annual update also showed that the ability of oceans, forests and soils to continue absorbing more than half of CO2 emissions has declined.

“These ‘sinks’ are weaker than they would be without the effects of changing climate,” said co-author Corinne Le Quere, a professor at the University of East Anglia.

Scientists not involved in the results said they were grim.

“The global carbon budget for 2022 is deeply depressing,” said Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College London.

“To have any chance of staying below the internationally agreed 1.5°C global warming target, we need big annual emissions cuts – of which there is no sign.”

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