Humanity will pump more climate-disrupting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels this year than ever before, the Global Carbon Project reports, resuming a decades-long rise after three years of near-plateau.
“Emissions in 2017 are projected to increase by 2%, reaching 36.8 gigatons of CO2 (GtCO2), a new high record,” the international NGO reported on Monday. That compares to average annual emissions of 11.4 Gt in the 1960s.
The report reflects the conclusions of “76 of the world’s leading emissions experts, from 57 research institutions,” led by Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, the Guardian reports.
The study’s overall finding is “very disappointing,” Le Quéré said.
“Global CO2 emissions appear to be going up strongly once again,” she told the paper. “They should really be decreasing.”
The fact that emissions are instead going up “is like a red flashing light on the dashboard,” Colorado State University climate scientist Scott Denning told InsideClimate News. “We’ve got to cut emissions by half in the next decade, and by half again in the next two decades, as well.” That becomes all the harder every time emissions rise.
Coal accounted for 40% of 2016’s total emissions of 36.3 GtCO2, oil for 34%, gas for 19%, cement 6%, and gas flaring during hydrocarbon extraction, refining and transportation 1%.
According to the National Geographic’s online report, “an unexpected rise in coal-burning in China—due in part to a summer drought that diminished the country’s rivers and its generation of hydropower—was the biggest contributor to the global surge in emissions,” contributing 28% of the global total. Despite that, China recorded a marginal drop of 0.3% in its emissions for the year, according to the international researchers.
The United States was the second-biggest contributor—at 15% of the world total—but saw a more significant drop of 2.1% in its 2016 emissions from 2015. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has predicted the country’s power sector emissions will rise again this year and next after declining for the past three.
The 28 states of the European Union accounted for 10%—again, down a marginal 0.3%. India was responsible for 7% but saw the biggest year-over-year jump in emissions among the major economies, up 4.5%.
Per-capita emissions ranged widely, reflecting national consumption levels: from a low of 1.8 tons of C02 (tCO2) in India, to a high of 16.5 in the United States—twice the European level of 7.0 tCO2 per person.
Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 also continue to rise as emissions pour into the air. The World Meteorological Organization reported late last month that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) had hit 403.3 partsper million last year, reaching levels that imply a potential 20-metre rise in sea levels and another 3.0ºC of warming.
What happens next, Le Quéré said, “is very open and depends on how much effort countries are going to make. There was a big push to sign the Paris agreement on climate change, but there is a feeling that not very much has happened since.”