New research from the Global Carbon Project science team reveals that global carbon emissions from fossil fuels have once again escalated to record levels in 2023. The annual Global Carbon Budget estimates that fossil carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will amount to 36.8 billion metric tons this year, marking a 1.1% increase from the previous year. Published in the esteemed journal Earth System Science Data, the 2023 edition of the report emphasizes the pressing need for global action to curb fossil fuel-related emissions and combat the escalating threat of climate change.
While certain regions, such as Europe and the United States, have witnessed a decline in fossil CO2 emissions, the overall global trend remains on an upward trajectory. According to the scientists involved in the study, the pace at which fossil fuels are being curtailed is far from sufficient to prevent the onset of dangerous climate change. Despite a slight projected decrease in emissions resulting from land-use change, such as deforestation, these reductions are still inadequate to offset the persistently high levels of reforestation and afforestation. The report predicts that the total global CO2 emissions (combining fossil and land-use change) will amount to approximately 40.9 billion metric tons in 2023. This stagnation, which represents a ten-year “plateau” in emissions, demonstrates a failure to achieve the necessary substantial reduction in emissions required to meet global climate targets.
The research team responsible for these alarming findings consisted of esteemed institutions worldwide, including the University of Exeter, the University of East Anglia (UEA), CICERO Center for International Climate Research, Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich, and 90 other institutions. Professor Pierre Friedlingstein, from Exeter’s Global Systems Institute and the study’s lead researcher, lamented the sluggish pace of carbon emissions reduction efforts from fossil fuels. Stating that the impacts of climate change are already visible, Professor Friedlingstein emphasized the urgent need for world leaders to prioritize and commit to swift and decisive action during COP28 to halt the dangerous rise in emissions and preserve the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
This study not only estimates the carbon budget remaining before consistently breaching the 1.5°C target over multiple years, but it also underscores the looming threat of exceeding the target even for a single year. Given the current emissions level, the researchers estimate a 50% chance of global warming exceeding 1.5°C within a mere seven years. However, the estimate is subject to significant uncertainties, primarily arising from the uncertain impact of non-CO2 agents on warming, especially in relation to the 1.5°C target, which is rapidly approaching current warming levels. Nevertheless, one certainty remains: time is rapidly running out to meet the 1.5°C target and avert the devastating consequences of climate change.
Professor Corinne Le Quéré, Royal Society Research Professor at UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, stresses the importance of profound and widespread efforts to transition toward Net Zero emissions in order to combat the escalating CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and mitigate the increasingly severe impacts of climate change. Despite a few encouraging trends indicating that climate policies can be effective, global emissions currently remain at unsustainable levels. Urgent action is therefore required to accelerate the decarbonization of economies worldwide.
Regional trends in emissions showcase significant disparities. The report projects an increase of 8.2% in emissions in India and 4.0% in China for 2023. Meanwhile, the European Union anticipates a decline of 7.4% in their emissions, and the United States also displays a downward trend. These variations further emphasize the need for targeted action and policy implementation at both regional and global levels to address the current state of carbon emissions and ensure a sustainable future.
The latest research paints a disheartening picture of the global carbon emissions landscape, with record-high levels causing grave concerns about the acceleration of climate change. The findings stress the urgent need for enhanced global action, from both governments and individuals, to curb the use of fossil fuels and rapidly transition to sustainable energy sources. Without substantial and immediate efforts, the world risks surpassing critical climate targets and facing irreversible consequences. It is crucial that leaders and citizens alike prioritize the battle against climate change to secure a livable future for generations to come.