When it comes to climate change, simple maths shows these warnings are no exaggeration. The rate we’ll need to cut carbon emissions could almost double in just four years, if we don’t change course today. With every passing month, the challenge ahead becomes so much harder.
27 Jun | News
A better, brighter future
Emissions rate growing every year
Climate experts agree that to keep the planet safe, we don’t just have to stop carbon emissions rising – we have to make big cuts. Failing to do so will mean global average temperature rises of more than 1.5C, threatening long-lasting or irreversible changes to our world, such as the loss of whole ecosystems.
But the emissions that drive global warming continue to grow. Our annual emissions from fossil fuels and industry alone were about 37.1 gigatonnes of CO2 (Gt CO2) in 2018, up from 33.1 Gt CO2 in 2010.
In October the world’s authority on the impact of carbon emissions, the inter-governmental panel on climate change (IPCC), released a major report. It said that in order to limit warming to 1.5C, we need to lower emissions to 18.2 Gt CO2 by 2030.
And here’s the crucial thing: the later we start cutting, the harder it will be to reach this target. Emissions are growing exponentially – the rate of growth is becoming greater every year. So the cuts needed are growing exponentially too.
If we cut emissions by 5.8% a year, starting this year, we will hit that 18.2 target. But every year we let emissions to continue growing, the annual cut needed becomes more dramatic:
- If emissions rise to 38 Gt CO2 in 2019, then from 2020 we have to cut by 6.6% a year
- If they rise again to 39 Gt CO2 in 2020, then from 2021 we have to cut by 7.5% a year
- If they rise again to 40 Gt CO2 in 2021, then from 2022 we have to cut by 8.5% a year
- If they rise again to 41 Gt CO2 in 2022, then from 2023 we have to cut by 9.8% a year