Climate. Global CO2 emissions at their highest in 2022

On the one hand the appearances, on the other the facts. While nearly 200 heads ofEstates and government, united in EEgypt, are trying to find a consensus on international action on the climate issue, the Global Carbon Project is making public, this Friday, its 17e Annual Report.

A consortium of international researchers bringing together around a hundred scientists and a partner of the World Climate Research Programme, the Global Carbon Project has drawn up, each year since 2006, “a complete picture of the global carbon cycle, in its biophysical and human dimensions, as well as the interactions and feedbacks between these components”. In other words, the study of thousands of data allows the authors of these global assessments to estimate, on the one hand, the emissions and the level of natural capture of CO2 over the past year and, on the other hand, to project those of the current year.

As for 2021, “the very strong rebound in global CO2 emissions2 observed compared to 2020 was expected, corresponding to the resumption of activity after a year 2020 marked by episodes of confinement “says Philippe Ciais, researcher at the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences (CEA-CNRS-UVSQ) and member of the Global Carbon Project. As for the projections for 2022, the authors of the report are unanimous: there is no “no sign of decreasing global emissions”which are peaking at record highs. “After the COVID episode, we thought that 2022 would be a year, you could say, normal”continues Philippe Ciais, “but it’s actually been a chaotic year, marked by the war in Ukraine and an unprecedented energy crisis. A seismic year due to global changes in energy markets », analyzes the researcher. However, the report states, “If current emission levels persist, there is now a 50% chance that global warming of 1.5°C will be exceeded in nine years.”

Among the main emitters, the researchers note, over 2022, a decrease in emissions “in China (0.9%) and in the EU (0.8%)”, an increase in the United States (1.5%), but especially in India with an increase of 6%. In Europe, the report points out, the slight drop in emissions can be explained “largely due to the reduction in the use of natural gas”, linked to the war in Ukraine and its impact on Russian gas supplies. In total, the world should therefore release into the atmosphere 40.6 billion tonnes (GtCO2) over the year, largely attributable to fossil fuels (36.6 GtCO2) and deforestation (3.9 GtCO2). Among emissions of fossil origin – which are up 1% compared to 2021 and show a higher level than in 2019 -, “oil is the biggest contributor to this growth”, notes the Global Carbon Project report. A data that the researchers attribute mainly to the resumption of post-covid air traffic. Coal-related emissions – which represent more than 40% of global emissions – also continue to increase, by around 1% over one year, driven by an increase in India, but also in Europe.

the “land use change” – which largely results in deforestation – is the other major vector of CO emissions2. Responsible alone for 58% of the emissions directly linked to this change in land use, Indonesia, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo share the sad podium. Deforestation emits, of course, but it also contributes to reducing the carbon absorption and storage capacities of our planet. Moreover, the report points out that “climate change has reduced the absorption of CO2 by ocean and land sinks by about 4% and 17%, respectively, over the decade 2012-2021”. A vicious circle.

Decrease CO concentrations2 in the air, “primary cause of global warming”, recalls Philippe Ciais, is more than ever a challenge on a global scale. Theoretically, COP27 should be able to ratify ambitious national objectives followed by effects. “We are at a turning point and we must not let global events distract us from the urgent and sustained need to reduce our emissions to stabilize the global climate and reduce cascading risks”, intimate the researchers who authored the report. The solutions exist, they finally point out, “If governments respond by boosting clean energy investment and planting, not cutting trees, global emissions could quickly begin to decline.”


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