Less than two years. This is the time left for humanity to start drastically reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The ultimatum was set by the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their famous report of 1.5 ° C, published in early October. Time is running out to stem the warming of the climate to 1.5 ° C, compared to pre-industrial times.

Infographic: the evolution of current or desirable greenhouse gas emissions

However, these harmful emissions for the climate are increasing worldwide, as confirmed by the latest data published on Monday, by the European Copernicus observation network.

Globally, greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow

The curve looks like a mountain whose summit is hard to flatten. According to Copernicus satellite measurements, the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere grew in 2018 by about 2.5 parts per million per year. These data complement those of the World Meteorological Organization and the Global Carbon Project, based on surface observations and published at the end of 2018. They announced a 2.7% increase in GHG emissions. More solid than 2017 and its + 1.6%.

"In 2018 we had a very hot year again, the fourth hottest year ever recordedsays Jean-Noel Thépaut, head of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). Dramatic climatic events like hot, dry summer in much of Europe or rising temperatures around arctic regions are alarming signs for us all. Only by joining forces can we make a difference and preserve our planet for future generations. "

In the United States, they are rising again

Americans are no exception and saw their greenhouse gas emissions rise by 3.4% in 2018 after three years of decline, according to a study published by the Rhodium group on Tuesday. "This marks the second largest increase in over twenty years, surpassed only by 2010 when the economy resumed after the" Great Recession "", says the report. This growth is attributable mainly to transportation, the most emitting sector for three years. Demand for diesel and kerosene rose sharply, offsetting a slight drop in gasoline consumption.

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Europe in decline

On the Old Continent, the picture is less dark. Between 1990 and 2015, GHG emissions dropped by 23.6%, despite an increase in gross domestic product of 50%. Only for four years, they have gone up again, ending hopes of having reached a peak. In 2018, the dynamic for the EU countries is + 1.8%.

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France has accompanied the trend with GHG emissions up 3.2% in 2017 compared to the previous year. As at the European level and in the United States, the big culprit is the transport sector. This finding is a hard regression for France, which has succeeded in reducing its emissions by 15% since 1990, according to the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition.

In China, soon stagnation?

On the climate scene, the most important player is China and its nearly 2,700 megatonnes of CO2 issued in 2017, a quarter of global emissions. Since 1990, the country's per capita emissions have increased more than 3.8 times. The country remains the largest emitter in the world, in quantity (not per capita). The data for 2018 are not yet known, but in the previous year emissions grew by 1.7% after two years of stagnation. Beijing has nevertheless promised to reach a peak before 2030.

For this, a gigantic energy transition plan was initiated in the country. In 2017, China installed more solar panels than the photovoltaic capacities of Germany and France combined. Despite these efforts, about 70% of China's emissions are still caused by its heavy reliance on coal, one of the most polluting energies in the world.

Aude Massiot

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