Carbon Emissions Hit Highest Level Ever

Emissions Hit Highest Level Ever

According to a report just released by the International Energy Agency (IEA), global carbon emissions have hit their highest level in history. Over 2021, carbon emissions spiked by 6% to 36.6 billion metric tons. Though the pandemic provided a brief pause in the world's ever-increasing emissions, the global economic rebound saw a massive rise in coal use, which was responsible for 40% of 2021's growth in carbon emissions.

Reuters: 2021 saw jump in greenhouse-gas emissions, says report, January 10, 2022.

Why This Matters

These statistics are staggering, but emissions could be even higher than what has been reported. According to another report, released last month, also from the IEA, methane emissions from the energy sector are 70% higher than officially reported numbers.

Increased demand for fossil fuels is putting the world’s climate goals at risk. While nations' climate commitments at COP26 could keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius, the rule of demand encourages continued investment into fossil fuel activities and makes the goal increasingly out of reach. There's still time to act, but it's getting more and more difficult -- the latest IPCC report calls for immediate steps to reduce emissions to prevent the worst effects of warming.

FT: Gas flaring - Can we rein in the waste and pollution?, Sep 21, 2021.

Emissions On The Rise

Last May, Earth's carbon dioxide levels not only hit the highest reading since data collection began 63 years ago but also since the Pliocene Epoch, roughly 4.5 million years ago.

This emissions spike has largely been driven by China, whose carbon emissions increased by 750 million tonnes between 2020 and 2021, and accounted for 33% of total global emissions in 2021. Rapid GDP growth and increased electrical capacity caused electricity use to rise by 10% in 2021, and much of this energy came from burning coal.

"The world must now ensure that the global rebound in emissions in 2021 was a one-off -- and that an accelerated energy transition contributes to global energy security and lower energy prices for consumers," the IEA said.

TED: End fossil fuels to protect human health, March 1, 2022.

Ranking Charts: Top 10 Polluting Countries by CO2 Emissions (1840-2021), December 26, 2021.