Early look at 2015 greenhouse gas emissions is good news if true

(credit: Chauncey Davis)

We recently covered an analysis of global emissions of greenhouse gases in 2014 showing an encouraging slowdown in the growth of those emissions. Particularly encouraging was the fact that this slowdown occurred along with continuing economic growth rather than simply reflecting an economic downturn. With the critical Paris climate negotiations currently underway, a group of researchers organized by the Global Carbon Project has published a commentary in the journal Nature Climate Change projecting that 2015 emissions will actually be lower than in 2014. You shouldn’t declare 2014 the Year that Carbon Peaked, though.

The researchers’ estimates for 2014 look a lot like those from the US report. They show an increase in fossil fuel and cement production emissions of 0.6 percent over 2013, which is much lower than the 2.4 percent annual growth rate over the preceding decade. Using an obviously incomplete dataset for 2015, they project a decrease of 0.6 percent (with error bars from a 1.6 percent decline to 0.5 percent growth), even as global GDP increased. This comes amid a continuing trend of less emissions per unit of GDP.

The current story of changing trends is largely told by China. Economic growth there has slowed (but not stopped) recently, and significant efforts to move away from a dirtier industrial economy, and away from the use of coal, contributed to a projected 3.9 decrease in emissions for 2015, according to the researchers. China’s emissions are likely to rise again, but the Chinese government has pledged to hit the peak by 2030.

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