Global carbon emissions boosted by soaring natural gas use are set to hit record levels in 2019 despite a decline in coal consumption and a string of countries declaring a climate emergency, researchers said yesterday .
In its annual analysis of fossil fuel trends, the Global Carbon Project said CO2 emissions were on course to rise 0.6 percent this year -- slower than previous years but still a world away from what is needed to keep global warming in check.
In three peer-reviewed studies, authors attributed the rise to “robust growth” in natural gas and oil, which offset significant falls in coal use in the United States and Europe.
Atmospheric CO2 levels, which have been climbing exponentially in recent decades, are expected to hit an average of 410 parts per million this year, Le Quere said. That’s the highest level in at least 800,000 years.
The report will make for further uncomfortable reading for delegates gathered at UN climate talks in Madrid, with the warnings from the world’s top climate scientists still ringing in their ears.
Last week the UN said global emissions needed to fall 7.6 percent each year, every year, to 2030 to stand any chance of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C. With just 1C of warming since the industrial era so far, 2019 saw a string of deadly superstorms, drought, wildfires and flooding.
The report anticipated emissions falls of 1.7 percent in the US and Europe as the power sector continues its switch away from coal. The most polluting fossil fuel saw its usage drop by as much as 10 percent in the two regions this year, the report said.
But such savings were offset globally by the likes of India and China, the biggest overall emitter, and specifically by an increase in energy from natural gas.
“Compared to coal, natural gas is a cleaner fossil fuel, but unabated natural gas use merely cooks the planet more slowly than coal,” said Glen Peters, research director at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research.
Meanwhile, the number of people at risk of being forced from their homes by river flooding could surge to as many as 50 million a year by the end of the century if governments do not step up action to tackle climate change, researchers warned.
That would be five times the average of 10 million displaced a year from the mid-1970s to 2005, and would happen as populations grow and as rainfall intensifies and ice melts on a warmer planet, causing more frequent and severe floods, said study author Justin Ginnetti.