A booming global market for cars has helped drive CO2 emissions to an all-time high in 2018, say researchers. The main factor in the near 3% rise has been coal use in China, driven by government efforts to boost a flagging economy. But emissions from cars, truck and planes using fossil fuels continue to rise in all parts of the world. Renewables have also grown this year, but are not keeping pace with the CO2 rise.

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Global greenhouse gas emissions are on course to reach a record high after rising at the fastest rate for seven years fuelled by increases in the US and China. The chances of avoiding dangerous climate change are diminishing after a 2.7 per cent projected increase in carbon dioxide emissions to 37.1 billion tonnes, scientists said. A separate study found that Greenland’s ice sheet was melting at its fastest rate for at least 350 years, which could lead to a rapid increase in sea levels. The increase in emissions was calculated by the Global Carbon Project, a team of researchers from 50 universities and institutes who study energy statistics and economic forecasts. They found the rate of increase had accelerated from the 1.6 per cent recorded last year and no change from 2014-16. China extended its lead as the highest emitting country, accounting for 27 per cent of the total because of a construction boom and economic growth, the study in Nature said.

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It’s not just coal. China is now the biggest emitter of carbon, followed by the US and the EU as a whole, then India, Russia, and Japan. Oil use continues to grow. The worldwide demand for energy is outpacing efforts to deal its climate-altering side effects. In a characteristically greedy and destructive way, the Trump administration proposes to destroy one of the last great Arctic wildlife reserves in order to drill for oil there. The great oil-producing nations of Saudi Arabia and Iran both figure among the top 10 carbon-emitting countries despite having hardly any other components to their economies. Add to this the effects of deforestation in the Amazon, which will accelerate under the Bolsonaro government, and the future looks unimaginably grim. Climate change will exacerbate, as it already does, the world’s existing political and economic divisions. The most worrying feature of the latest UN report is the suggestion that the relatively good performance of the years 2014-16 in reducing carbon emissions was the result of an economic slowdown. The political consequences of the resulting discontent are with us still. They produced Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro and gravely weakened the EU. All those factors make a sane policy on climate change less likely. The purely physical feedback loops that drive climate change, such as the reduction of reflective ice surface, are now well enough understood. But it may be that the long-term message of the years since the Paris summit is that this understanding is not enough. We must also learn somehow to disrupt the political and economic feedback loops which are driving our civilisation to the brink of catastrophe.

Guardian 5th Dec 2018 read more »

Climate change has significantly boosted the chances of having summer heatwaves in the UK. A Met Office study says that the record-breaking heat seen in 2018 was made about 30 times more likely because of emissions from human activity. Without warming the odds of a UK heatwave in any given year were less than half a percent. But a changing climate means this has risen to 12%, or about once every eight years. The blazing summer of 2018 was the joint warmest for the UK.

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Carbon Brief 6th Dec 2018 read more »

Government policy and spending should focus on mobilising private capital. When the heads of sovereign wealth funds and other institutional investors start to decarbonise their portfolios, then the international effort to save the planet might actually stand a chance of success. Anything else runs the risk of being little more than hot air.

Times 6th Dec 2018 read more »

Rising sea levels could become overwhelming sooner than previously believed, according to the authors of the most comprehensive study yet of the accelerating ice melt in Greenland. Run-off from this vast northern ice sheet – currently the biggest single source of meltwater adding to the volume of the world’s oceans – is 50% higher than pre-industrial levels and increasing exponentially as a result of manmade global warming, says the paper, published in Nature on Wednesday. Almost all of the increase has occurred in the past two decades – a jolt upwards after several centuries of relative stability. This suggests the ice sheet becomes more sensitive as temperatures go up.

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Published: 6 December 2018