WASHINGTON — Dec 5, 2018, 3:44 PM ET

Climate reality check: Global carbon pollution up in 2018


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After several years of little growth, global emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide experienced their largest jump in seven years, discouraging scientists.

World carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to have risen 2.7 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to three studies released Wednesday from the Global Carbon Project , an international scientific collaboration of academics, governments and industry that tracks greenhouse gas emissions. The calculations, announced during negotiations to put the 2015 Paris climate accord into effect, puts some of the landmark agreement's goals nearly out of reach, scientists said.

"This is terrible news," said Andrew Jones, co-director of Climate Interactive, which models greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures but was not part of the research. "Every year that we delay serious climate action, the Paris goals become more difficult to meet."

The studies concluded that this year the world would spew 40.9 billion tons (37.1 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide, up from 39.8 billion tons (36.2 billion metric tons) last year. The margin of error is about one percentage point on either side.

The Global Carbon Project uses government and industry reports to come up with final emission figures for 2017 and projections for 2018 based on the four biggest polluters: China, the United States, India and the European Union.

The U.S., which had been steadily decreasing its carbon pollution, showed a significant rise in emissions — up 2.5 percent — for the first time since 2013. China, the globe's biggest carbon emitter, saw its largest increase since 2011: 4.6 percent.

Study lead author Corinne Le Quere, a climate change researcher at the University of East Anglia in England, said the increase is a surprising "reality check" after a few years of smaller emission increases. But she also doesn't think the world will return to the even larger increases seen from 2003 to 2008. She believes unusual factors are at play this year.

For the U.S., it was a combination of a hot summer and cold winter that required more electricity use for heating and cooling. For China, it was an economic stimulus that pushed coal-powered manufacturing, Le Quere said.

John Reilly, co-director of MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, said the results aren't too surprising because fossil fuels still account for 81 percent of the world's energy use. The burning of coal, oil and gas release carbon dioxide, which warms the Earth . Reilly, who wasn't part of the study, praised it as impressive.

Global Carbon Project chairman Rob Jackson, a Stanford University climate scientist, said he was discouraged.

The Paris accord set two goals. The long-held goal would limit global warming to no more than 1.8 degrees (1 degree Celsius) from now, with a more ambitious goal of limiting warming to 0.9 degrees (0.5 degrees Celsius) from now.

The trend is such that the world would have to be lucky to keep warming to 1.8 degrees, let alone the lower goal, Le Quere said.

China increased its emissions to 11.4 billion tons (10.3 billion metric tons), while the U.S. jumped to a shade under 6 billion tons (5.4 metric tons). The European Union spewed 3.9 billion tons (3.5 billion metric tons) and India soared to 2.9 billion tons (2.6 billion metric tons). Overall, the world is spewing about 1,300 tons (1,175 metric tons) of carbon dioxide into the air every second.

Use of coal — the biggest carbon emitter — is rising. And while countries are using more renewable fuels and trying to reduce carbon from electricity production, emissions from cars and planes are steadily increasing, Le Quere said.

Global carbon dioxide emissions have increased 55 percent in the last 20 years, the calculations show. At the same time, Earth has warmed on average about two-thirds of a degree (0.38 degrees Celsius), according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Read more stories on climate issues by The Associated Press at https://www.apnews.com/Climate


Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears .


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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  • Arc_Fault_One

    People aren't going to use less until the wealthy start first. You can't fly around the world, own several houses and waste waste waste then tell the little people that they need to cut back. Every one of the people pushing the global warming alarm think it doesn't apply to them, only us. The carbon tax just goes in someone's pocket. It costs us more and does nothing for climate change.

    I don't see anyone in Washington turning off the heat and air. I don't see them using Skype instead of flying to meetings. I also don't see any of them living in tiny houses. Lead by example if you want this to all change.

  • TrueBlue

    At this point we can't stop what's coming. But the GOP won't even let us fund studies on how to adapt.

  • MickC

    Hopefully, the move toward electric cars will help - more and more auto companies are announcing they will NOT begin plans on any more all-gasoline engine cars. Autos use something like 40% of the oil used in the world and it will lead to a decline in oil use.
    I do NOT expect the world to do anything about Global Warming until it's too late to easily control. There are no real democracies in the world because big business is allowed to contribute enough money to sway elections, especially in the USA, and they know Global Warming is coming but also know that the avg. person is ignorant and hears what he wants to hear.
    So, at age 68, I think I'll escape the wrath of Global Warming, but I fear for the next generations of my family.

  • think before you type

    Everyone is so concerned with the government and what other people do to help.

    If you want to start making a change,
    Get involved and do your part.

    Waiting for someone else to fix it, isn’t working.

  • jim t

    We should create a stiff carbon and fuel tax to.....enrich certain politicians and dignitaries. Yeah, that's what we'll do. We'll show them.

  • Mic123

    HOW CAN THIS BE??? everyone but trump was in the paris deal? Are you saying trump left the deal because everyone else is cheating?

    When the world leaders stop flying around on private jets and drinking bottled water I will agree to do more till then...

    P.S. I never drink from plastic bottles except gallons of milk, I don't fly and I never drink soda. doing my part are you?

  • Grampa S

    One issue I read about a few years ago is the fact that homes in the us are so big. Where i grew up most homes were around 1200 square feet and raised families of 6 or more. Now we see 3000+ square foot homes for families of 4.

  • yetanother1

    We are willfully burning down our own house. How stupid it that?

  • Roger

    Trump could care less about global emissions. The effects of global warming will be felt after he is dead. So why would he care at all?

  • RededWhiteandBlue

    Too many people, bottom line.

  • Michael McKay

    How can Global Carbon be up? It is cold outside today!

    /Extreme Sarcasm

  • gs12

    "For the U.S., it was a combination of a hot summer and cold winter that required more electricity use for heating and cooling."

    Blame one person all you want but we the people want to be comfortable and we don't really care what happens tomorrow. Just as simple as that.

  • CaptnBlynd

    US emissions 2007 - 6001 million metric ton.(Our peak)
    US emissions 2017 - 5140
    1990 - 5039, the last year it was lower than 2017 (stats from statista)

    China 1990 - 3293
    China 2017 - 13039 (From climateactiontracker)

    Not much we can do to offset that. The US is at levels from 30 years ago and China has increased over %400 over the same time. It would seem that if the US had stopped using all fossil fuels in 1990, world emissions would still be up.

  • Hawkman100

    The walking disaster area in the White House and his trained seals have buried their collective heads sufficiently deep in the sand that they don't hear any of this evidence about increased omissions. Even if they did, it would just be fake news.

    Anyway you look at it, the Trump administration is ignoring a global disaster in the making.

  • Nate

    Future generations are going to ask those who were living in this time, why did we allow this tragedy to occur? That's going to be a hard question to answer.

  • ButMaybe

    Wonder what could have happened since 2016 to cause something like this:)