Carbon Emissions Reach New All-Time High for 2018

In research just unveiled at the UN COP24 Climate conference in Poland, carbon dioxide emissions are on track this year for the fastest rise in history and to a record new level.

A heavy pall of deadly pollution hangs over Beijing in 2010. It is even worse now, as the economy has grown and there is even more use of coal-fired power plants across the country. Photo: Cory M. Grenier, CC

According to the Global Carbon Project, an independent environmental research analysis effort, in 2018 carbon dioxide emissions will rise by 2.7% in 2018. That’s up from a 1.6% rise in 2017 and a previous flatline during the 2014-2016 period.

It puts global emissions now at 10.1±0.5 GtC (Gigatons of Carbon), or 37.1 GtCO2.

The research which led to this conclusion was conducted at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.

The spiking rise in emissions comes thanks to increasing numbers of cars around the world, plus a shocking increase in use of coal-fired power plants in the last few years. China leads the globe in nations producing the worst carbon emission rises for 2018, reaching 4.7% this year. The United States, which under Trump has done almost everything it possibly could to allow increased carbon emissions, will close the year with a 2.5% rise overall in the last 12 months. In third position is India, which will show an increase in carbon output of 6.3% this year.

The new Global Carbon Budget report was prepared by 76 scientists representing 57 research institutions in 15 countries.

According to the scientists, the continued economic growth in India and China was a primary driver behind those two countries’ energy increases, followed closely by far more use of coal as a principal energy resource and a rise in transportation use. In the U.S., there were multiple causes cited. Besides the Trump administration’s easing of restrictions on fossil fuel emissions, the combination of a much colder winter than normal last year and now this fall, plus a very hot summer which drove air conditioning usage higher, all contributed to a major increase in carbon dioxide outputs during the last twelve months.

Perhaps more important than any of the numbers is the realization that while world leaders may be saying the right things about climate actions when on the world stage, on their home turf they are not taking the necessary tough stands to slow the pace of emissions growth around the planet. Unfortunately, the actions which are most needed will hurt all the globe's economies, and in a short-term focused world it may be nearly impossible for even the best leaders to do what it takes to save the planet.