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expert reaction to the Carbon Budget 2018

Reactions to an assessment of carbon dioxide emissions and their redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean and land (the ‘global carbon budget’) as published in Earth System Science Data.


Dr Joeri Rogelj, Lecturer at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said:

“This new uptick in global emissions leads us away from the zero emissions that are needed by 2050 to halt warming to safe levels. With their forensic reconstruction of past years’ trends, this new study shows that solutions to drastically reduce emissions are clearly coming of age and ready to roll out – but the necessary leadership is lacking.

“We require zero global CO2 emissions by 2050 to limit warming to 1.5°C – a level that would safeguard sustainable development and gives coral reefs a fighting chance of survival. Seeing global CO2 emissions rise once again to record levels is therefore a clear indication that, despite advances in renewable energy and other sectors, we’re far from being on track to halt climate change.”


Dr Anna Jones, Science Leader at the British Antarctic Survey, said:

“It’s incredibly disappointing to see the rise in CO2 emissions in 2018, which is driven by persistent use of fossil fuels. All the evidence tell us it is essential to stabilise and then rapidly reduce CO2 emissions in order to limit global warming to the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5C. Globally, we have the capabilities needed to achieve this goal, but we have to act quickly.”


Prof Dave Reay, Professor of Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“This annual balance sheet for global carbon is comprehensive and scientifically robust. Its message is more brutal than ever: we are deep in the red and heading still deeper.

“This cannot continue. It must not. To give us even an outside chance of meeting the Paris climate goals emissions need to fall, and fast. We knew this in 2015, we know it now. Yet still they rise. Burning so rapidly through the last dregs of our global carbon budget doesn’t just rob the chance of a safer climate future from our grandchildren, it loads the dice against them having a future at all. World leaders and their negotiators will say ‘we are doing our best’. So far their best has not been enough. For all our sakes they must now do what is required.”


Prof Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy & Climate Change at the Tyndall Centre, University of Manchester, said:

“If the UK, a self-proclaimed climate progressive country, celebrates the exploitation of a new North Sea oil reserve (Clair Ridge), whilst simultaneously exploring for shale gas and expanding Heathrow, is it any surprise global emissions are rising? If the climate-aware EU is planning new pan-Europe pipelines to lock-in high carbon gas for decades to come, is it any surprise global emissions are rising? If ‘ever-green’ Sweden, currently without any major gas infrastructure, is enthusiastically building a new gas terminal in Gothenburg – is it any surprise emissions are rising. If scientists and journalists keep on reporting on how these paragons of green virtue are demonstrating economic growth with falling emissions, when their own analysis of full carbon accounting demonstrates just the opposite – is it any wonder emissions are rising.

“Set against a background of collective delusions, partial accounting and just plain lies, emissions will continue to rise. Of course hand-wringing politicians and co-opted academics in the West will point to how the actual rise is driven primarily by emission increases in China, India and other emerging economies. But this misses the point. We built our success on the back of cheap hydrocarbons and copious emissions– and yet here are we now gloating over our pseudo green credentials whilst pointing the finger at poorer people elsewhere. It’s time to grow up and smell the coffee – or perhaps heed the wise words from Greta Thunberg – tomorrow’s generation teaching today’s ‘elites’ that playing poker with the climate is a mugs game.”


‘Global Carbon Budget 2018’ by Corinne Le Quere et al. was published in ESSD at 6pm UK time on Wednesday 5 December.


Declared interests

Prof Reay: none to declare

No others received

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