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expert reaction the 2017 carbon budget

The 12th annual Global Carbon Budget report has been published.


Prof. Richard Betts, Professor of Climate Impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre and University of Exeter, said:

“By continuing to cause this inexorable rise in atmospheric CO2, we are pushing the global climate closer and closer to the edge of our own comfort zone.  Human society is largely based around current and past climate – the crops we grow, the way we use water supplies, the highest levels of heavy rain and high temperatures that we expect our buildings, roads and railways to tolerate, and even where we have built our cities alongside the current edge of the sea.  These will all change as the climate continues to warm.

“Under the Paris Agreement, the countries of the world committed to trying to limit further climate warming, but some changes are already locked-in, so we will need to adapt – but there may be limits to what is affordable, desirable or even possible.”


Prof. Andrew Watson FRS, Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Exeter, said:

“Overall there continues to be grounds for optimism: emissions have not peaked yet, but they are definitely levelling out, despite continually increasing global economic activity. This is a hopeful sign that we can avoid the most damaging effects of climate change, while still enjoying economic growth, provided we can keep up the trend of the rapid switch away from fossil fuels and towards renewables.”


Prof. Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science at the University of Oxford, said:

“Compounding the news that CO2 emissions have started rising again, a new index of human-induced warming published today1 shows that even after we filter out the impact of El Niño, the underlying warming trend is faster than ever. Human-induced warming has accelerated over the past few years despite the slowdown in carbon dioxide emissions because of other drivers of climate change, notably methane.”

1 Haustein et al, Scientific Reports,


Prof. Piers Forster, Professor of Climate Change at the University of Leeds, said:

“The Trump administration has been advocating ‘Clean Coal’. Coal is not clean – it is dangerous. These important updates show that China and the US together are emitting around 12 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from coal burning. This has to rapidly reduce to zero to prevent temperatures rising above 1.5C. Currently, less than 0.1% of these carbon emissions from coal are captured and stored. Those who argue coal has a future are putting the planet under real risk.”


Prof. Dave Reay, Chair in Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“This latest global carbon budget shows that we are still deep in the red. Emissions in 2017 were well above what we can afford if the most dangerous impacts of climate change are to be avoided. The good news is that an increasing number of nations have been able to achieve sustained economic growth and cut emissions at the same time – the holy grail of climate change mitigation called ‘decoupling’.

“More renewables, energy efficiency, and forest protection are all helping to keep the global carbon debt in check, but balancing the books will require far greater contributions from the nations of the world. At the climate talks in Bonn this week there is simply no room for complacency.”


* The Global Carbon Budget 2017 is the annual update by the Global Carbon Project. It is based on the following analyses and all material is embargoed until 8.30am UK TIME Monday 13 November 2017.

Le Quéré et al. (2017) Global Carbon Budget 2017. Earth System Science Data Discussions.

Peters et al. (2017) Towards real time verification of CO2 emissions. Nature Climate Change.

Jackson et al. (2017) Warning signs for stabilizing global CO2 Emissions, Environmental Research Letters.


Declared interests

Prof. Forster: None to declare

Prof. Reay: None to declare

Prof. Watson:“I am a carbon cycle researcher funded by grants from UK and European research councils, and one of the authors (along with around 80 others) of the global carbon budget paper.”

Prof. Allen: “A co-author of Haustein et al, available online from Monday at, and will be presenting these results at a COP23 side-event “Measuring progress towards Paris Agreement goals:  aligning science and policy”, Bonn Zone Meeting Room 11, 15:00-16:30, Monday, November 13th.

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