CO2 emissions to hit historic highs in 2018

Global temperatures could rise by 3 degrees Celsius or more by 2100. A study released at the COP24 climate conference blamed rampant use of coal and oil for the increase beyond the limits set by the Paris agreement.

Global carbon dioxide emissions will rise to historic levels in 2018, according to a study released Wednesday in conjunction with the COP24 climate conference in Katowice, Poland. The news marked the second year of increases after a relative lull from 2014 to 2016.

Nature and Environment | 05.12.2018

The Global Carbon Budget 2018, released by the Global Carbon Project, found that the widespread use of coal — as well as more cars and trucks being out on the streets — are behind the uptick in carbon emissions.

Rising carbon dioxide levels are "pushed up mainly by coal use, but also by rising oil use in transport," lead researcher Corinne Le Quere of the University of East Anglia in England told DW. "Almost all countries are contributing to the rise, either by rising themselves or by decreasing less than expected."

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In total, global emissions from fossil fuels are predicted to reach 37.1 billion tons of CO2 in 2018, a 2 percent increase from 2017. The researchers also warned that the goals agreed upon in Paris in 2015 are now next to impossible to reach, and the world is looking at a 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F) average increase in global temperatures by the end of the century, well above what experts warn would be a catastrophic rise.

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The world is headed toward a 3 to 5 degree Celsius global temperature increase this century, the UN World Meteorological Organization warned last week.

The report listed the 10 biggest emitters as China, the United States, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada, with China rising the most rapidly.

Nature and Environment

10. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The largest city in Saudi Arabia is also the most polluted, mainly due to its industrial activity. Looking at 13,000 cities, researchers found that highly populated centers contributed a major part of countries' total emissions. Large urban areas use up more than 70 percent of the world's total energy — meaning metropolises hold the power to change the global climate situation.

Nature and Environment

9. Greater Tokyo Area, Japan

Only about 2 percent of new cars sold in Japan's capital are environmentally friendly. The Tokyo-Yokohama urban area, with the world's largest urban population, emits a massive amount of CO2 every year — 62 million tons for Tokyo alone. But the recent adoption of the Tokyo Declaration gives some hope: 22 global megacities have committed to tackling air pollution and promote zero-emission vehicles.

Nature and Environment

8. Chicago, United States

It's the third-most-populous city in the US, and it also has the third-largest carbon footprint. Pollution in the Chicago metropolitan area increased significantly between 2014 and 2016, according to a study by the American Lung Association. Chicago has also been ranked as the third-dirtiest US city. Any guess as to the other two?

Nature and Environment

7. Singapore

The many industries in this city-state are behind most of its CO2 emissions; the manufacturing sector will account for 60 percent of its emissions by 2020. But the government has realized it's time to act, and declared 2018 the year of climate action. It has also announced a carbon tax on highly polluting facilities. Singapore is also a main importer of sand — a scarce natural resource.

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6. Shanghai, China

It isn't surprising to find Shanghai in this ranking, as it's among the world's most populated cities. Congestion there has led to serious environmental problems, including air and water pollution. As in many other Chinese cities, power plants and nonstop traffic are the main causes for its carbon emissions. That's why it isn't uncommon to see people wearing masks as they move through the city.

Nature and Environment

5. Los Angeles, United States

Not everything in LA is like in the movies. The city's air quality has been ranked as the worst in the US. But California has set ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, using clean energy and supporting electric or hybrid cars. California Governor Jerry Brown has taken a leading role in the fight against climate change, opposing the Trump administration.

Nature and Environment

4. Hong Kong, China

The autonomous territory in southeastern China is densely populated; thousands of vehicles clog its roads, and coal-fired power plants and polluting industries spew smog into the air. In addition, its cargo shipping sector is responsible for up to 50 percent of the city's carbon emissions, according to its Environmental Protection Department.

Nature and Environment

3. New York, United States

The most populous city in the US takes the bronze medal for carbon footprint. In January, the iconic metropolis sued the world's five largest oil companies — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell — for their contribution to climate change and its effects on the city. The city has been intensively working to reduce its emissions, but still has a lot of work to do.

Nature and Environment

2. Guangzhou, China

In China's third-most populous city, factories and vehicles are continuously emitting harmful emissions. Smog is an everyday occurrence. But Guangzhou has committed to replacing its entire fleet of fossil-fuel powered buses and taxis with pure electric vehicles by 2020, after major campaigns by environmental groups such as Greenpeace.

Nature and Environment

1. Seoul, South Korea

Seoul is the world's top city when it comes to carbon footprint. Air pollution is its biggest environmental and health concern: More than 30,000 tons of harmful pollutants are emitted from just 10 old coal-fired power plants, accounting for around 20 percent of South Korea's total pollution. In recent years, the city has suspended plant operations in an effort to tackle the problem.

Ray of light from renewables

However, countries like the US, the UK, France, and 16 others have managed to reduce their overall emissions in the past decades. At the same time, the price of electricity from renewable sources has plummeted.

Le Quere also saw reason for hope in the United States, because even though President Donald Trump has pulled Washington out of the Paris agreement, "US businesses are very imaginative. Lots of places in the US have already woken up to the fact that renewable technology has a market for it, and a lot of US states and cities have made their own pledges. The emissions in the US are actually decreasing at the moment, due mainly to a big reduction in coal use since 2005."

But while the study applauded the 15 percent global uptick in efforts to use renewable energy sources over the past 10 years, it said that governments must work harder to expand these kinds of power plants, and quickly, to avert an international crisis.

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Additional reporting by Irene Banos Ruiz from Katowice.

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