Global carbon emissions are forecast to edge higher this year and if current levels do not fall sharply, there is a 50 percent chance that global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius will be exceeded in nine years, a major global study released on Friday said.
The annual Global Carbon Budget analysis, released during the COP27 United Nations climate talks in Egypt, predicts that emissions will reach 40.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2) in 2022.
This is driven in part by a 1 percent rise in fossil fuel emissions compared with 2021. Fossil fuel emissions are set to reach 36.6 GtCO2 this year.
Emissions from land-use change, such as deforestation and land degradation, are projected to be a further 3.9 GtCO2 in 2022.
The findings are in line with a recent forecast by the International Energy Agency, which also warned of a rise of 1 percent.
It would have been higher but for a surge in green energy investments this year, driven in part by the global energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The more positive news is that 1 percent growth of CO2 emissions this year is half of the long-term mean growth over the past 50 years,” said Dr Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project consortium, which conducted the peer-reviewed analysis.
“Yet the urgently needed peak and decline of emissions is nowhere to be seen in the coming three to five years,” he said.
The Global Carbon Budget report is produced by an international team of more than 100 scientists. It examines carbon sources and sinks, such as forests and oceans.
The United Nations’ climate science panel says the world must limit warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid increasingly destructive weather events and faster sea-level rise.
The planet has already warmed by 1.2 degrees Celsius and every year that CO2 emissions fail to drop sharply pushes the world closer to a more dangerous future.
The analysis found that emissions are projected to fall 0.9 percent in China this year and 0.8 percent in the European Union, but increase in the United States (1.5 percent) and India (6 percent), with a 1.7 percent rise for the rest of the world combined.
China is the world’s top greenhouse gas polluter, followed by the US and India.
Dr Canadell said India’s strong CO2 emissions growth reflects a strong emerging economy coming from a very low base of emissions per capita.
“So what we have seen this year is not only a continuation of recovery from the pandemic, but also long-term robust economic growth supported by an almost exclusive growth in coal-based energy.”
High land-use emissions remain a concern, he said. Indonesia, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo contribute 58 percent of global land-use change emissions, according to the analysis, mainly from deforestation and peatland degradation.
“It is hard to do well in this sector unless land clearing, and particularly deforestation in tropical regions, can be reduced significantly,” he said.
Dr Canadell noted that based on current emissions, the planet will cross the 1.5 degrees Celsius level early next decade.
He said industrial-scale removal of CO2 from the atmosphere is the only chance left to eventually bring temperatures back to safer levels towards the end of this century.