Greenhouse gas emissions have reached an all-time high – with 54 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted each year, study warns
- Greenhouse gas emissions are causing unprecedented global warming
- Within less than five years, Earth has a 50% chance of exceeding the 1.5C limit
Greenhouse gas emissions have reached ‘record highs’ and are causing unprecedented global warming, a study warns.
Scientists have calculated that 54 billion tons of carbon dioxide have been emitted each year for the past ten years.
Human-induced global warming has continued to increase at an ‘unprecedented rate’ since the last major assessment of the climate system was published two years ago, 50 leading scientists say.
If emissions are not reduced, within five years, Earth has a 50 percent chance of exceeding the 1.5°C (2.7°F) global warming limit set by the 2015 Paris Agreement .
In the journal Earth System Science Data, the scientists revealed how key indicators have changed since the publication of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Working Group 1 report in 2021.
Greenhouse gas emissions have hit ‘record highs’, causing unprecedented global warming, scientists say (stock image)
- Human-induced warming, largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels, averaged 2 °F (1.14 °C) above pre-industrial levels during the most recent decade (2013 to 2022). This is more than 1.9 °F (1.07 °C) between 2010 and 2019.
- Human-induced warming is now increasing at a rate of more than 0.2 °C (0.36 °F) per decade.
- Greenhouse gas emissions are ‘at an all-time high’, with human activity causing the equivalent of 54 (+/- 5.3) gigatons (or billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide to be emitted into the atmosphere in the past decade (2012- 2021).
The researchers say that while there is a positive step away from burning coal, it comes at a cost in the short term because it has contributed to global warming by reducing particulate pollution in the air, which has a cooling effect.
The Indicators of Global Climate Change project is coordinated by Professor Piers Forster, Director of the Priestley Center for Climate Futures in Leeds.
He said: ‘This is the critical decade for climate change.
“Decisions made now will affect how much temperatures will rise and the extent and severity of impacts we will see as a result.
Long-term warming rates are currently at a sustained high, driven by the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions on record. But there is some evidence that the rate of increase in greenhouse gas emissions has slowed.
“We have to be agile in the face of climate change. We need to change policies and approaches in light of the latest data on the state of the climate system. Time is no longer on our side. Access to up-to-date information is vital.’
One of the key findings of the analysis is the rate of decline of what is known as the residual carbon budget – an estimate of how much carbon can be released into the atmosphere to give a 50 percent chance of keeping global temperature rise within 2.7°C. hold. F (1.5°C).
In 2020, the IPCC calculated that the remaining carbon budget was about 500 gigatons of carbon dioxide.
But at the beginning of 2023, the figure was about half that of about 250 gigatons of carbon dioxide.
Human-induced warming is now increasing at a rate of more than 0.2 °C (0.36 °F) per decade. Pictured: A dry bottom of a pond during a heat wave in New Delhi in 2022
The reduction in the estimated remaining carbon budget is due to a combination of continued emissions since 2020 and updated estimates of anthropogenic warming.
Professor Forster said: ‘Even though we are not yet at (2.7°F) 1.5°C warming, the carbon budget is likely to be exhausted within a few years as we have a triple whammy of heating from very high CO2 emissions, heating by increasing other greenhouse gas emissions and heating by reducing pollution.
“If we don’t want the (2.7°F) 1.5°C target to disappear in our rearview mirror, the world needs to work much harder and urgently to reduce emissions.
“Our goal is for this project to help key players get that important work done as quickly as possible with up-to-date and timely data at their fingertips.”
The global inventory will be a key focus of the Cop28 climate talks later this year in Dubai – and how countries can curb emissions to prevent the world from consuming the carbon budget.
The scientists also announced they would release greenhouse gas emissions annually to address an “information gap.”
In an initiative led by the University of Leeds, the scientists have developed a platform for open data and open science – the indicators of global climate change and website. It will update information on key climate indicators every year.
Professor Maisa Rojas Corradi, Chile’s environment minister, IPCC author and a scientist involved in the study, said the Paris Agreement agreed on a ‘ratchet mechanism’ whereby countries would step up their commitments to cut carbon emissions.
She said: ‘We need scientific information on emissions, concentration and temperature as often as possible to keep international climate negotiations up to date and to adjust and correct national policies if necessary.’
THE PARIS AGREEMENT: A GLOBAL AGREEMENT TO LIMIT TEMPERATURE RISE THROUGH CO2 EMISSIONS REDUCTION TARGETS
The Paris Agreement, first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and mitigate climate change.
It hopes to keep the increase in global average temperature below 2°C (3.6°F) “and continue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F).”
It seems that the more ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) may be more important than ever, according to previous research claiming that 25 percent of the world experienced a significant increase in experience drier conditions.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals related to reducing emissions:
1) A long-term goal to keep the increase in global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels
2) Aiming to limit the increase to 1.5°C, as this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change
3) Governments agreed that global emissions should peak as soon as possible, recognizing that this will take longer for developing countries
4) Then make rapid reductions in accordance with the best available science