Carbon Emissions From Fossil Fuels Will Hit Record Levels This Year

CO2 2022

Figure 1Surface average atmospheric CO2 concentration (ppm). Since 1980, monthly data are from NOAA/GML (Dlugokencky and Tans, 2022) and are based on an average of direct atmospheric CO2 measurements from multiple stations in the marine boundary layer (Masarie and Tans, 1995). The 1958–1979 monthly data are from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, based on an average of direct atmospheric CO2 measurements from the Mauna Loa and South Pole stations (Keeling et al., 1976). To account for the difference in mean CO2 and seasonality between the NOAA/GML and the Scripps station networks used here, the Scripps surface average (from two stations) was de-seasonalized and adjusted to match the NOAA/GML surface average (from multiple stations) by adding the mean difference of 0.667 ppm, calculated here from overlapping data during 1980–2012.

Carbon emissions from fossil fuels will hit record levels this year, said an IPCC report (IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA, pp. 3-24, doi:10.1017/9781009157940.001.)

This year, nations are projected to emit roughly 36.6 billion tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide by burning coal, natural gas and oil for energy, according to new data from the Global Carbon Project (Global Carbon Budget 2022, Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 14, 4811–4900,, 2022.

That is 1 percent more than the world emitted in 2021 and slightly more than the previous record in 2019, which came before the coronavirus pandemic caused a temporary drop in global energy use and emissions.

The findings were released at the United Nations climate change summit in Egypt, where world leaders have gathered to discuss how to avert catastrophic levels of warming.

The report said:

Global fossil CO2 emissions (including cement carbonation) further increased in 2022, being now slightly above their pre-COVID-19 pandemic 2019 level.

Emissions from coal, oil, and gas in 2022 are expected to be above their 2021 levels (by 1.0 %, 2.2 % and −0.2 % respectively).

Regionally, emissions in 2022 are expected to have decreased by 0.9 % in China and 0.8 % in the EU but increased by 1.5 % in the U.S., 6 % in India, and 1.7 % in the rest of the world.

Fossil CO2 emissions decreased in 24 countries during the decade 2012–2021. Altogether, these 24 countries contributed about a quarter of global CO2 fossil emissions.

Emissions from deforestation, the main driver of global gross sources, remain high over the 2012–2021 period, highlighting the strong potential for emissions reductions when halting deforestation.

Emissions from other land-use transitions and from peat drainage and peat fire add further small contributions.

The highest emitters during 2012–2021 in descending order were Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with these three countries contributing more than half of the global total land-use emissions.

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is set to reach 417.2 ppm in 2022, 51 % above pre-industrial levels.

The ocean CO2 sink resumed a more rapid growth in the past 2 decades after low or no growth during the 1991–2002 period. However, the growth of the ocean CO2 sink in the past decade has an uncertainty of a factor of 3. The discrepancy in the trend originates from all latitudes but is largest in the Southern Ocean.

The land CO2 sink continued to increase during the 2012–2021 period primarily in response to increased atmospheric CO2, albeit with large inter-annual variability.

Scientists have warned that the world will need to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by around midcentury in order to stabilize global temperatures and minimize the risks from deadly heat waves, sea-level rise and ecosystem collapse.

That deadline is getting harder to hit, experts said, with each passing year.

China’s emissions are projected to decline by roughly 0.9 percent this year, its first drop since 2016. Rapid growth of wind and solar power helped keep China’s demand for coal roughly flat in 2022.

In Europe, emissions are also expected to drop by about 0.8 percent this year, largely driven by a steep fall in natural gas consumption after Russia cut off supplies. That was only partly offset by a rise in coal use, as countries like Germany and Austria restarted long-dormant coal-fired power plants to ease their energy shortfalls.

In the U.S., emissions are projected to rise around 1.5 percent this year, driven by a surge in natural gas use as the economy picked up. Emissions from oil are also up as air travel recovers from pandemic lows.

In India, fossil fuel emissions are expected to increase by nearly 6 percent, the largest single driver of the growth in carbon dioxide globally. India recently surpassed the European Union as the world’s third-largest emitter, although its per person emissions are just one-third those of Europe.

In the rest of the world, fossil fuel emissions increased by roughly 1.7 percent this year. Emissions from coal are likely to hit record highs, in part because many countries are shifting over to the highly polluting fuel in response to soaring natural gas prices.

The International Energy Agency has calculated that this year’s rise in fossil fuel emissions would have been three times as large had it not been for a rapid deployment of wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles worldwide.

The emissions data contains some glimmers of good news. The yearly amount of carbon dioxide released by deforestation and changes in land use appears to have declined over the past two decades, to around 3.9 billion tons in 2022. Once that is included, humanity’s total carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and land use have stayed roughly flat since 2015.

Part of the story, researchers said, is that forests appear to be expanding or recovering in many regions, such as on abandoned farmland in Europe. As those trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. That has helped offset a fraction of the emissions produced by deforestation, which remains stubbornly high in places like Brazil, Indonesia and the DR Congo.

carbon cycle

Figure 2Schematic representation of the overall perturbation of the global carbon cycle caused by anthropogenic activities averaged globally for the decade 2012–2021. See legends for the corresponding arrows and units. The uncertainty in the atmospheric CO2 growth rate is very small (±0.02 GtC yr−1) and is neglected for the figure. The anthropogenic perturbation occurs on top of an active carbon cycle, with fluxes and stocks represented in the background and taken from Canadell et al. (2021) for all numbers, except for the carbon stocks in coasts, which are from a literature review of coastal marine sediments (Price and Warren, 2016).

The new data shows that time is running out to reach those targets. If emissions were to merely stay flat at 2022 levels, the researchers found, the world would likely put enough carbon into the atmosphere to exceed the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold within nine years, and exceed the 2-degree Celsius threshold within 30 years.

Carbon emissions from fossil fuels will hit record levels this year, according to a comprehensive analysis. The finding represents a brutal contrast with the need to cut emissions by half by 2030 to restrict global heating to 1.5C and avoid the most devastating impacts of the climate crisis.

There is no sign of the decline needed, the researchers said, heaping further pressure on the countries whose representatives are meeting at the UN COP27 climate summit in Egypt to deliver real and rapid action.

Other scientists described the news as “bleak” and “deeply depressing”.

Fossil Fuel Lobbyists Swarm Climate Talks

A report by Jake Johnson in Common Dreams said:

An analysis released Thursday shows there are more fossil fuel lobbyists attending the COP 27 than representatives of the 10 nations most affected by the crisis, heightening concerns that industry influence will water down any agreements reached at the event.

data analysis of the United Nations’ provisional attendance list for the closely watched conference shows that 636 fossil fuel lobbyists have been registered at the talks, up 25 percent from last year’s COP26 in Glasgow.

According to Corporate Accountability, Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Witness — the groups that conducted the analysis — there are more fossil fuel lobbyists registered at COP27 than any single national delegation with the exception of the United Arab Emirates.

While officials from the conference’s host country of Egypt have characterized the talks as “the African COP,” pledging to center the developing world in negotiations over climate solutions, fossil fuel lobbyists outnumber any national delegation from Africa, where oil and gas giants are aggressively pursuing new fossil fuel development even as climate-driven extreme weather ravages the continent.

Additionally, the new analysis shows there are more fossil fuel lobbyists at COP27 than officials from Puerto Rico, Myanmar, Haiti, the Philippines, Mozambique, The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand and Nepal, which the GermanWatch Global Climate Risk Index deems the 10 countries most impacted by the worsening global climate emergency.

A spokesperson for the three watchdog organizations said: “The extraordinary presence of this industry’s lobbyists at these talks is therefore a twisted joke at the expense of both people and planet.”

list published by Corporate Accountability, Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Witness shows that corporations and trade groups attending COP27 include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — a powerful lobbying organization that has been dubbed the “chamber of carbon” — as well as Exxon, Chevron, and other major oil and gas firms.

The U.S.-based public relations firm that the Egyptian government hired to run communications for COP27 has close ties to the fossil fuel industry, with a client list that includes Exxon.

The outsized presence of the industry most responsible for the climate crisis has outraged climate campaigners, who are vocally protesting polluters’ influence on the COP27 talks as they continue to produce woefully insufficient action plans.

“The climate crisis is upon us, yet world governments continue to protect the interests of a few greedy corporations instead of the people who are most affected,” said the Kick Polluters Out campaign, which held a protest on the ground in Sharm El-Sheikh on Thursday. “Nowhere is that more clear than at COP27, where big polluters like fossil fuel lobbyists have once again converged to greenwash their polluting image and block the climate action we so desperately need.”

Corporate Accountability, Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Witness noted that unlike fossil fuel lobbyists, activists from the Global South and others harmed disproportionately by the climate crisis “have effectively been shut out of the talks by high costs, visa challenges, and repressive actions by the hosting country.”

“Rather than being the start of the real climate action needed, COP27 looks set to be a festival of fossil fuels and their polluting friends, buoyed by recent bumper profits,” a spokesperson for the coalition said.

Another report by Olivia Rosane in Ecowatch said:

At last year’s COP26, there were more representatives from the fossil fuel industry, at more than 500, than from any individual country.

An analysis counted which of the more than 30,000 COP27 delegates either had ties to a company that did a substantial amount of business in fossil fuels or were present as part of a trade group representing fossil fuel interests. These included major oil and gas companies like Chevron, Shell and BP. Because the analysis relied on publicly available data and delegates’ self-disclosure of their industry connections, it is likely to be an underestimate. It also does not include representatives of other climate-polluting industries like agribusiness and plastics.

The UAE delegation has 1,070 members. However, 70 of those members are also fossil fuel lobbyists. Including the UEA, 29 countries had fossil fuel lobbyists as part of their delegation. Russia had the next highest amount at 33. Canada’s delegation included three representatives from Enbridge, an energy company building a controversial pipeline between the U.S. and Canada known as Line 3 which is opposed by Indigenous communities.

The fossil fuel lobby was much larger than that of frontline communities. In addition to outnumbering the delegation of the 10 most impacted countries, it also outnumbered the delegation of any one African country and the total Indigenous delegation, Kick Big Polluters Out noted.

More than 450 organizations have backed the call to Kick Big Polluters Out, arguing that fossil fuel interests should be restricted at climate meetings in the same way that tobacco lobbyists are prevented from contributing to public health policy.

The argument in favor of admitting industry representatives to climate negotiations like the COPs is that private companies can potentially play an important role in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, according to The Guardian.

The United States Council for International Business said banning private interests from COPs would “damage and slow implementation [and] marginalize one of the most central constituencies in the UNFCCC process,” according to The Guardian.

However, activists are concerned that the large number of fossil fuel representatives would actually make meaningful climate action impossible.

“Tobacco lobbyists would not be welcome at health conferences, arms dealers cannot promote their trade at peace conventions. Those perpetuating the world’s fossil fuel addiction should not be allowed through the doors of a climate conference. It is time governments got out of the pockets of polluters, come to their senses and help make COP27 the success the world vitally needs it to be,” a spokesperson for the Corporate Accountability, Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Witness said in a statement.

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