Carbon emissions worldwide remain at the same levels, according to the team at the Global Carbon Project. The team includes researchers from the University of Exeter, the University of East Anglia (UEA), CICERO, and Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich. There are no signs that emissions are decreasing, which is urgently needed to keep warming to 1.5°C. The team estimates that if current levels continue, there is a 50% chance that global warming will increase by more than 1.5°C in less than ten years.
The new report projects total CO2 emissions to be over 40 billion tonnes in 2022. This value is higher than in 2021 – about 36 billion tonnes — and similar to pre-COVID levels. Emissions from changes in land use (such as deforestation) alone are expected to reach 4 billion tonnes in 2022.
The picture around the world is mixed: some countries are expected to decrease emissions, such as China and the EU, but the USA, India, and most other countries will experience increases. To reach zero emissions by 2050, we would require a decrease of about 1.4 billion tonnes each year. The world was actually able to achieve this drop in 2020, but only because of severe restrictions due to COVID-19, highlighting the scale of the action required.
Land and water continue to absorb about half of the CO2 emissions. These natural reserves are still increasing, but the rate of increase is now severely affected by climate change.
However, there are some good news too: the long-term trend of increasing fossil emissions is finally slowing down. These emissions peaked in the early 2000s with a 3% increase that year, but over the last decade, this has dropped to about 0.5% every year. The research team welcomed this decrease, but it’s still far from what we need.
This report has been published as world leaders meet at COP27 in Egypt. “This year, we see yet another rise in global fossil CO2 emissions when we need a rapid decline,” said Professor Pierre Friedlingstein of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute, who led the study. “There are some positive signs, but leaders meeting at COP27 will have to take meaningful action if we are to have any chance of limiting global warming close to 1.5°C. The Global Carbon Budget numbers monitor the progress on climate action, and right now, we are not seeing the action required.”
“Our findings reveal turbulence in emissions patterns this year resulting from the pandemic and global energy crises. If governments respond by turbocharging clean energy investments and planting, not cutting, trees, global emissions could rapidly start to fall,” added Professor Corinne Le Quéré, Royal Society Research Professor at UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences. “We are at a turning point and must not allow world events to distract us from the urgent and sustained need to cut our emissions to stabilise the global climate and reduce cascading risks.”
The project estimates that atmospheric CO2 concentrations will reach over 400 ppm in 2022, which is a 50% increase compared to pre-industrial levels.
The Global Carbon Budget report, which is produced by more than 100 researchers from around the world, assesses carbon sources and sinks. It provides annual and peer-reviewed updates. The 2022 edition will be online here: https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-14-4811-2022