Emissions are on the decline around much of the planet, but this drop-off is less significant than was expected.
In the US, for example, carbon dioxide is being emitted less than it has been for some time – largely thanks to the adoption of cheap, clean energy and the switch from coal to less-carbon-rich natural gas. However, for the first time in a while, coal use has risen ever so slightly.
In Europe, emissions are still declining, but again, the continued use of coal in major nations is stopping this being as rapid as required.
India, a prolific user of coal, has regularly seen its emissions increase by 6 percent year-on-year. This was just 2 percent for 2017, but this is considered to be a temporary dip.
This research comes hot on the heels of another, one which suggested that even the more ambitious 1.5°C (2.7°F) warming limit requested by poorer and low-lying nations could be met. This was based on the idea that the climate is less sensitive to carbon dioxide than it was previously thought.
The GCP’s new assessment doesn’t negate this; if the climate is indeed less sensitive, it does mean we have more time, and hope, than we thought. What it does point out, however, is that carbon dioxide levels aren’t flatlining anymore, and they should be.
Most estimates suggest that if global greenhouse gas emissions don’t peak then drop off by 2020, then the 2°C (3.6°F) warming limit is in dire jeopardy of being breached. If 2017 is the start of a new trend, then it’s a surefire bet that we’re not going to make it.