Thursday, August 29, 2019

World Carbon Dioxide Levels Will Continue to Rise

On Earth Day in 2016 leaders from more than 175 countries gathered at the United Nations in New York City to sign the Paris Climate Accord that was negotiated the previous winter in Paris that was intended to put the nations on a course to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of fossil fuel. The signing was a hopeful moment. Since then, the United States has announced its intension to withdraw from the Paris Accord; and it has become clear that carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion continue to climb.
from EIA

Even if every nation meets their pledge made in the Paris Climate Accord, the reductions promised (if there are even actual reductions) are not enough to maintain global temperatures within 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. This 2 degree limit is what scientists believe will prevent the drowning of many coastal cities, the disruption of agricultural climates and reductions in drinking water availability. However the Island nations had pushed for a lower limit believing that a temperature rise of 2 °C above pre-industrial levels would not be enough to save them. Thus, an aspirational goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels was included in the agreement.

The reason the Paris Climate Accord will fail is that neither China nor India representing about a third of world greenhouse gas emissions have committed to any reductions. Instead they are projecting when their greenhouse gas emissions will peak and that is in more than a decade. To limit the increase in global mean temperature to below 2°C and “pursue efforts” to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C as stated in the Paris agreement, man-made emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) must reach zero by 2050.  Based on a recently published article “Committed emissions from existing energy infrastructure jeopardize 1.5°C climate target,” we are not going to make it.

The authors of the article argue that the continued building of fossil-fuel burning energy infrastructure implies “committed” future CO2 emissions from existing and proposed energy infrastructure and power plants of 846 gigatonnes of CO2 –more than the entire CO2 budget that remains. Committed emission from existing power plants and infrastructure and proposed power plants assumes that all plants will be operated as they have been historically and for their planned 40 year lifetime and 53% utilization rate. According to the authors, China accounts for 41% of the committed future CO2 emissions, India 9%, the United States 9% and the European Union 7%. Ultimately, as the authors point out, the lifetime operation will depend on the relative costs of competing technologies and local regulation. (The authors have kindly posted the entire article for free at this link.)

The U.S. Engergy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions declined by 861 million tonnes (14%) from 2005 to 2017 . EIA projects that U. S. CO2 emissions will rise 1.8%, from 5,143 million metric tons in 2017 to 5,237 million tonnes in 2018, then remain virtually unchanged in 2019. The EIA is projecting that 2019 U.S., energy-related CO2 emissions will be about 13% lower than 2005 levels. Meanwhile, the EIA reports that global CO2 emissions grew 21% from 2005 to 2017 and will continue to rise reaching 23% above 2005 levels in 2019.

Meanwhile, according to the ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8° Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade. Temperatures have not increased evenly over the globe. Average temperatures have risen 1.4°C, but has varied across the regions. While Alaska and some Western states have led the way, the Southeastern United States has seen far less temperature change 1-1.2°C. In Alaska, average temperatures have increased by 2.3°C since 1970. Temperatures in New Mexico, New Jersey, Delaware, Arizona, and Utah have risen by at least 1.7°C since 1970.

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