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Climate Change: Planet-heating CO2 emissions rise in 2022

A new report on the global carbon budget finds that a renewed international push for oil, coal and gas has driven up CO2 emissions to alarming levels

The world is facing a climate breakdown. (Getty Images)

By Bibek Bhattacharya

LAST PUBLISHED 11.11.2022  |  06:00 AM IST

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A new climate science report, released today, states that in 2022, planet-heating CO2 emissions are set to rise by 1% over last year’s emissions. Even as crucial international climate negotiations continue at the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-shaikh in Egypt, the report on the global carbon budget for 2022 makes for alarming reading. 

The annual study, prepared by Global Carbon Project, an international research project, shows that instead of decreasing, CO2 emissions are continuing to rise. The report also warns that at current rates, there is a 50% chance that the safe threshold of global heating of 1.5 degree Celsius (above pre-industrial times) will be crossed within the next nine years.

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For context, countries across the world are committed to limit global heating to 1.5 degree Celsius by 2100. The UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) has repeatedly stated that in order to contain global heating, the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half by 2030. However, according to the state of current CO2 emissions, that seems like a distant dream.

The Global Carbon Budget 2022 states that a surge in oil use means that global CO2 emissions are stated to rise to 36.6 billion tonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) this year, with total CO2 emissions at 40.6GtCO2. What’s equally alarming is that atmospheric CO2 levels are projected to average about 417.2 ppm (parts per million) in 2022. Remember that for at least 6,000 years, till 1850, atmospheric CO2 levels were constant at 280ppm. Earlier this year, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated that the last time that the atmospheric CO2 levels were as high as they are now, was about 4.1 million years ago, when global sea levels were about 25m higher than today.

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While the COP27 continues, several studies have pointed out that the pace of decarbonization has not only stalled, but is actually increasing. A recent analysis by the Climate Action Tracker shows that a massive global push for natural gas, due to the war in Ukraine, is threatening the 1.5 degree Celsius target. Another study has shown that the 12 of the world’s biggest carmakers plan to build about 400 million new petrol and diesel cars, making yet another dent in the world’s remaining carbon budget. Yet another report points out that 655 oil and gas companies are preparing to expand their output. This would result in 115 billion tonnes of additional CO2 emissions, roughly equal to 24 years of US emissions. Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) had warned that in order for the world to meet its 2050 net zero target, there could be no new fossil fuel projects from 2022 onwards.  

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