Global greenhouse gas emissions at all-time high, study finds

‘Carbon budget’ that can be emitted while keeping global warming below 1.5C is being exhausted, according to scientists.

Scientists have warned that greenhouse gas emissions have reached an all-time high and might cause “unprecedented” levels of global warming.

According to a study published on Thursday in the journal Earth System Science Data, the world is rapidly exhausting its “carbon budget,” the maximum amount of carbon dioxide that may be released into the atmosphere in order to stay below the critical barrier of 1.5C over pre-industrial temperatures.

To prevent the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere that would cause temperatures to increase by 1.5C, only roughly 250 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide can now be released into the atmosphere. It would be depleted far before the end of this decade at the present yearly rates of greenhouse gas emissions, which over the previous ten years have averaged approximately 54 billion tonnes. This is down from 500 billion tonnes just a few years ago.

This decade is crucial for climate change, according to Prof. Piers Forster, head of the Priestley Centre for Climate Futures at the University of Leeds and paper’s primary author. The degree and intensity of the effects we will experience as a result of the rise in temperatures will depend on decisions made now.

He claimed that although the rate of yearly emissions growth had moderated, far more action was still required. In light of the most recent information regarding the state of the climate system, we must alter our policies and methods. Time is not on our side anymore, he declared.

Governments are gathering in Bonn to prepare for Cop28, a significant UN climate summit taking place in the United Arab Emirates in November. One of the last chances for the world to get back on track to achieve the objectives of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and stay within 1.5C is Cop28.

In order to achieve the “course correction” he has demanded, Cop28 President-elect Sultan Al Jaber will be under pressure when he arrives in Bonn on Thursday. Al Jaber is still in charge of the negotiations and Adnoc, the national oil firm of the UAE, which intends to boost its capacity for producing oil and gas.

Al Jaber earlier told the Guardian that he will bring a “business mindset” and energise the private sector to the negotiations as a result of his dual roles. John Kerry of the US and Frans Timmermans of the EU, two key participants in the negotiations, have commended him. However, campaigners are still unpersuaded and are organising a demonstration in Bonn on Thursday to protest what they view as an inherent conflict of interest in Al Jaber’s position.

For the first time since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, governments will conduct a “global stocktake” at Cop28 to determine if they are on pace to meet their promises to reduce emissions.

As the research published on Thursday also demonstrates, the stocktake is likely to reveal that the globe is seriously off course. Despite a significant decline in 2020 when Covid lockdowns were in place in several nations, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to climb.

According to a 2018 analysis by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global greenhouse gas emissions must roughly halve by 2030 when compared to 2010 levels in order to stay below the 1.5C limit and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. However, that projection was based on the presumption that during the 2020s, global emissions would decline by around 7% annually.

The annual rate of fall in emissions will now need to be significantly steeper to keep inside the 1.5C target as emissions have continued to climb.

Professor of climate science at Imperial College London and co-author of the new article Joeri Rogelj told the Guardian: “The years of ongoing high emissions as well as revisions to the remaining carbon budget suggest that by now we should be doing more. That requires either pushing the worldwide objective net zero date for CO2 from roughly 2050 to roughly 2035, or significantly deepening the cuts by 2030.

The International Energy Agency discovered earlier this year that the largest source of emissions, energy-related emissions, appeared to be plateauing. But only 18 nations have demonstrated consistent declines in their emissions.

According to Majid Al Suwaidi, the director general of Cop28 and one of Al Jaber’s senior aides, UAE would not use the global stocktake to publicly embarrass countries for not meeting their commitments under the Paris Agreement or for not reducing emissions quickly enough.

“Climate change is one of those things where we’re all interconnected,” he said. “We can’t solve the problem individually. We have to solve as a collective. That’s what makes it difficult. And so there’s no simple bad guy, good guy in this discussion. Everybody has their solutions. Everybody has their ideas. And if we can bring people together behind those sort of common solutions, and drive the agenda behind that, that becomes a real powerful moment. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve at Cop28.”

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