CO2 levels are rising again. We need to do more to save our planet
Global CO2 levels are on the rise again.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project predict that global CO2 emissions will grow by two per cent in 2017, reaching 41 billion tonnes.
News of dangerous levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are anything but new. That doesn’t make it any less important, says Martin Siegert, co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment. “We are still not doing anything about it. If we continue like this, we are talking about an environmental situation that may be irretrievable.”
The results were published in a study for the journals Nature Climate Change, Earth System Science Data Discussions and Environmental Research Letters. The researchers estimated how much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere by observing energy data for the first half of the year and making assumptions on how the rest of the year will look. These projections indicate an overall rise in CO2 levels, based on a large overall growth for this year.
Lead researcher Corinne Le Quéré, a professor at the University of East Anglia and director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, describes the results as “concerning”, especially in China, where CO2 levels are projected to increase by 3.5 per cent.
“By and large China drives the global change because 28 per cent of global emissions are from there. What we saw in China is renewed industrial activity this year after being quite slow for the last three years," says Le Quéré. Coal use has risen in the country, caused by its market value increasing by 6.8 per cent.
The world will likely be 2 degrees warmer by 2100
“Developing countries won’t peak their own emissions for another ten or so years. That’s the problem; major economies are frankly doing what all the other developed countries in the West have done already,” Siegert says. “This is a problem that will continue to grow until we take action and you can’t delay it. We will end up with 3 and half degrees of warming compared to the 1950s, at the end of century.”
“There does seem to be a bit of slackening in effort in addressing climate change. There seems to be a less push for new policies and new actions,” says Le Quéré.
It’s not all bad news; CO2 emissions are expected to decline by 0.4 per cent in the US and 0.2 per cent in the EU. “In the UK we are expecting to continue to see a decrease in emissions,” says Le Quéré. This was helped by our unusually warm winter in 2016, meaning less fuel and gas was used for heating.
“In Britain there’s been a lot of effort in the power sector, to go from coal to renewable energy. What we need to do now is have a more broad range of action, such as making homes more efficient,” says Le Quéré. Siegert adds legislation like the UK’s Climate Change Act is needed in more countries because the Paris Agreement allows countries to individually nominate what kind of carbon reduction they will each give.
“The world needs to follow by the UK’s example. The Climate Change Act commits us to reducing our CO2 emissions by 80 per cent of what they were in 1990. If every nation had one of those, by 2050 we will be well on the way to a low carbon economy globally."
The decreases predicted in this study are smaller than the previous ten years – and it’s still not enough. “In order to address climate change and stop the climate from warming, the emissions of CO2 need to go down to zero,” says Le Quéré. “We need to move away from fossil fuels completely and use renewable energy. Unless we do that, the impacts for society are incredibly high.”
We are already seeing how a warmer climate can amplify extreme weather conditions; from flash floods and fires, to devastating hurricanes. “The conditions are set for more powerful storms with warmer seas that produce more energy. Higher sea level means more water and more water vapour in the atmosphere, so when it rains it rains harder and that increases the risk of floods,” Le Quéré says.
Atmospheric CO2 concentration reached 403 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, and is expected to increase by 2.5ppm in 2017. India’s emissions are also expected to grow by two per cent; but this is a slower growth compared to previous years.
Le Quéré says we need to support these developing countries in using renewables if we stand a chance of saving the planet. The success of tackling climate change also hinges heavily on what happens in the US once they leave the Paris Climate Agreement. Now that Syria have signed the pledge, America is the only country left to refuse the deal. “I hoping we can put pressure on the US so they don’t slacken too much – we should talk to states and mayors of cities who are all trying to implement actions despite the central government,” Le Quéré says.
“We have the technology and the capability to address climate change, it’s a matter of will,” she argues, while also pointing to the benefit of hydrogen and electric cars, and uses batteries to store energy.
This study is just one among many that have recently told the same story, adds Siegert. “When you put CO2 into the atmosphere, it’s very difficult to get it back out. If we don’t get on with it, what will see is this story repeated every single year for the next ten years – then we may be in a situation where we can’t do anything about it.”
"You can pledge all you like and politicians can keep having agreements but the bottom line is the CO2 in the atmosphere needs to stop going up," he adds.
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November 13, 2017 at 07:31AM