Climate: CO2 emissions from fossil fuels at an all-time high

Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas continue to rise.

Climate: CO2 emissions from fossil fuels at an all-time high

Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas continue to rise. They are expected to reach a peak in 2023 at 36.8 billion tons per year, as experts write in the Global Carbon Budget report. That is 1.1 percent more than in 2022 and 1.4 percent more than in the pre-Corona year 2019.

"The impacts of climate change are evident all around us, but action to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels remains painfully slow," said research leader Pierre Friedlingstein from the University of Exeter, UK, in a statement. More than 120 experts were involved in the report, published in the journal “Earth System Science Data”.

Threatened climate target

The proportion of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air will average 419.3 ppm (parts per million) in 2023, which is 51 percent higher than in 1750. "It seems inevitable that we will "The 5 degree target will be exceeded - and the last few years have shown us dramatically how serious the consequences of climate change already are," said Julia Pongratz from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, one of the lead authors of the report. Nevertheless, every tenth of a degree counts in the fight against the climate crisis.

The global average temperature should not rise to more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the time before the industrial revolution - this was the primary goal of the Paris climate conference in 2015. The global budget of CO2 that can still be emitted in order to achieve this goal with a However, the probability of achieving 50 percent will be exhausted at the 2023 emissions level in seven years, as the experts write in the report. It will take 15 years to keep global warming to 1.7 degrees, and 28 years at two degrees, starting in 2024.

More emissions in China and India

Using a variety of measurements and carefully tested computer models, the researchers determined that India emitted 8.2 percent more CO2 from fossil fuels this year than in 2022. The world's most populous country now has higher emissions than the European Union.

China, which is responsible for 31 percent of all global fossil CO2 emissions, emitted four percent more fossil CO2 in 2023 than in the previous year. On the other hand, the USA has reduced these emissions by 3.0 percent and the EU by as much as 7.4 percent. In the rest of the world there was a decrease of 0.4 percent, i.e. a positive trend.

For Germany, there is no advance calculation for 2023 in the report. Last year, the Federal Republic reduced fossil CO2 emissions by 1.9 percent. Compared to 1990, Germany has been able to reduce its CO2 emissions by 36.8 percent to 0.67 billion tons (equivalent to 1.8 percent of global emissions). Nevertheless, more needs to be done in this country to save CO2.

Reforestation cannot keep up

Another focus of the report is so-called land use change, particularly deforestation. It is estimated that 4.1 billion tonnes of CO2 will have entered the atmosphere in 2023 due to land use changes. That is slightly less than the average for the years 2013 to 2022 of 4.7 billion tons. During this decade, 1.9 billion tons of CO2 were removed from the air each year through reforestation, but this was not enough to offset the 4.2 billion tons per year of emissions from persistent deforestation, primarily in Brazil, Indonesia and the Congo.

Technical solutions in their infancy

For the first time, the report also shows the reduction of atmospheric CO2 through technical measures. However, this currently only amounts to 0.00001 billion tons of CO2 - and therefore significantly less than one millionth of current CO2 emissions.

Nevertheless, technologies such as direct CO2 extraction from the air and subsequent storage (Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage – DACCS) are needed, emphasized Jan Minx from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) in Berlin. "If we want to clean up the atmosphere at some point because we don't want to live with climate damage of 1.5 degrees, then we need these technologies."

The experts are hopeful that there are numerous countries that have significantly reduced their CO2 emissions and whose economies have still grown.

So-called carbon sinks continue to absorb around half of the CO2 released into the air by humans. On land it is primarily the vegetation and soils, and in the ocean certain chemical reactions that remove CO2 from the atmosphere. But without climate change, the land depression and the ocean depression could absorb significantly more CO2. “These effects will become even more pronounced as climate change increases,” emphasized Judith Hauck from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven.

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