Carbon dioxide emissions, the main contributor to global warming, are set to rise again in 2014 and reach a record global high of 40 billion tonnes, according to new estimates.
The Global Carbon Project, a collaboration of multiple research bodies from around the world, including Australia, has released its annual report.
This latest update shows that total future CO2 emissions cannot exceed 1,200 billion tonnes, for a 66% chance of keeping average global warming under 2 Degrees Celcius.
At the current rate of emissions, this 1,200 billion tonnes would be used up in around 30 years.
This means that there is just one generation before the safeguards to a 2 Degree Celcius limit are breached.
To avoid this, more than half of all fossil fuel reserves may need to be left unexploited, the team of international scientists say.
Profess Corinne Le Quéré at the University of East Anglia says the human influence on climate change is clear.
“We need substantial and sustained reductions in CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels if we are to limit global climate change,” she says.
“We are nowhere near the commitments necessary to stay below 2°C of climate change, a level that will be already challenging to manage for most countries around the world, even for rich nations.”
In Australia, emissions continued to decline in 2013 adding to a downward trend which started in 2009, largely due to the decline in electricity generation from coal power plants.
Here’s a summary of the findings:
- CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuel are projected to rise by 2.5% in 2014, bringing the total emissions from all sources above 40 billion tonnes, or 65% above 1990 levels, the reference year for the Kyoto Protocol
- Global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuel and cement production grew 2.3% to a record high of 36 billion tonnes CO2 in 2013.
- Emissions from deforestation remain low in comparison, at 3.3 billion tonnes CO2 in 2013, accounting for 8% of total emissions.
- Fossil fuel emissions in the last ten years grew at 2.5% per year on average, lower than the growth rate in the 2000s (3.3%) but higher than the growth rate in the 1990s (1%). The declining growth rate in recent years is associated with lower GDP growth compared to the 2000s, particularly in China
- Fossil fuel emissions track the high end of emissions scenarios used by the IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) to project climate change.
- Given current projection of the World GDP (Gross Domestic Product), emissions are expected to grow further in the absence of more stringent action.
The largest polluters are China, USA, Europe and India, which together account for 62% of the global emissions and 80% of the growth in 2013 .
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