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CO2 emissions on the rise for first time in years

Rebecca Staudenmaier
November 13, 2017

Researchers estimate that global carbon dioxide emissions will rise around 2 percent in 2017, making it the first increase in three years. Experts warned that "time is running out" to limit the effects of climate change.

Thick smoke rises from a power plant in Dezhou, east Chinas Shandong province
Image: picture alliance/dpa

By the end of 2017, the global CO2 emissions generated by fossil fuels and industry are projected to rise by 2 percent compared to last year, according to the Global Carbon Project's annual report published on Monday.

Read moreHave we already blown our carbon budget?

Cutting CO2 in steel production

It's the first time emissions of the greenhouse gas have risen after staying relatively flat for three years, according to the "2017 Carbon Budget," which was presented at the COP23 climate change conference taking place in Bonn, Germany.

The report's lead researcher and director of the University of East Anglia's climate change department, Corinne Le Quere, called the projections "very disappointing."

"With global CO2 emissions from all human activities estimated at 41 billion [metric tons] for 2017, time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius let alone 1.5 degrees Celsius," Le Quere said in a statement.

The study noted that a majority of the 41 billion metric tons (45.2 billion US tons) of global CO2 emissions stem from industry and fossil fuel-use, which are estimated to reach 37 billion metric tons (40.8 billion US tons.)

Carbon Budget data

The total emissions figure is a record high, with experts estimating that the global carbon budget will run out in 20 to 30 years. The budget, which refers to the amount of carbon we can release into the atmosphere before we exceed climate change targets, has been determined by the Global Carbon Project.

Read moreJerry Brown: How to beat Donald Trump on climate change

"This year we have seen how climate change can amplify the impacts of hurricanes with stronger downpours of rain, higher sea levels and warmer ocean conditions favoring more powerful storms," Le Quere said, urging for more to be done in the next few years to drive down emissions in order to limit the impacts of climate change.

"This is a window into the future," she said.

Read moreCOP23: Is the Bonn summit worth the trouble?

China, India emissions to grow

Researchers said that the growing global emissions are in part tied to a pickup in the global economy.

"The global economy is picking up slowly. As GDP rises, we produce more goods, which, by design, produces more emissions," said one of the report's co-authors, Robert Jackson.

CO2 emissions in relation to GDP

Read moreCOP23: Corporations and lobbyists welcome in Bonn

China accounts for 28 percent of global emissions in 2017, the report said. The country's emissions are predicted to rise by 3.5 percent this year compared to 2016.

India's emissions are also projected to increase by 2 percent this year, in line with the country's GDP growth.

Carbon dioxide emissions in Europe and the US, on the other hand, are on track to be lower in 2017 than in the previous year, down by 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent respectively.

The current emissions reductions around the world are still too slow in order to turn around the rising trend, researchers said.