06 December 2018

Greenhouse gas emissions likened to a "speeding freight train"

Greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are growing at an accelerating pace this year, researchers said Wednesday, putting the world on track to face some of the most severe consequences of global warming sooner than expected.

Scientists described the quickening rate of carbon dioxide emissions in stark terms, comparing it to a “speeding freight train” and laying part of the blame on an unexpected surge in the appetite for oil as people around the world not only buy more cars but also drive them farther than in the past — more than offsetting any gains from the spread of electric vehicles...
“We thought oil use had peaked in the U.S. and Europe 15 years ago,” Dr. Jackson said. “The cheap gasoline prices, bigger cars and people driving more miles are boosting oil use at rates that none of us expected.” 
Text and image from the New York Times, where there is more information.


  1. This is not going well. And we're all contributing.

  2. Hm.. I'm locked out of the NY Times since I don't have a subscription, so I can't read the article. I am interested over what period of time the graph shows?

    That data seems a bit different than for example, the EU's EDGAR data base, (EDGAR is the Emissions database for Global Atmospheric Research) and includes data on national CO2 and Greenhouse gases for all world companies, current up to 2017. (Ref:http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/overview.php?v=CO2andGHG1970-2016&dst=CO2emi)

    If you look at the EDGAR dataset, it shows the total US Co2 emissions have increased over the last 46 years (data from 1970-2016) by an average of 0.2% per year, but this increase has reversed in the last couple of decades. The 10 year decrease has been average of -1.2% per year, and the last 20 years a -0.3% per year.

    But this graph is showing an increase over some period of time of 0.5-4.5%. Hence, my question. Is it total sources & sinks per year? over the last 50 years? or last 10 years? or last 2 years? Not enough data on the graph as shown to make a conclusion, but it doesn't seem to match other data from a typical interpretation.

    1. The NYT does not offer the primary source data. They are quoting the Global Carbon Project, whose website is here -


      You may find your answer somewhere there. There doesn't appear to be any paywall.

    2. BTW, as I read the graph, the orange dots represent the "estimated emissions growth rate for 2018" - not for any past dates.

      It is awkwardly drawn in that the label seems to point to "China" but it's referring to the orange dot in each geographic area. I would suppose the vertical colored bars represent a couple standard deviations of the estimate.

    3. Huh.. I'm moderately familiar with the Global Carbon project, which just did put out a minor report this past week or so, with accompanying PR releases. However, that projection for 2018 is way out of anything that I've seen from them -- particularly considering its quite a bit off for the US projection from other sources such as the EPA and EDGAR and IEIA. But it's a start for me to go look at. Thank you Stan. If I can track it down, I'll report back.

    4. Found it! Its actually from a paper on the Global Carbon budget, published in Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 10, 2141-2194, 2018 (https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-10-2141-2018) I found a copy at https://www.earth-syst-sci-data.net/10/2141/2018/. The link to the Global carbon project (GCP) is that their data is archived there as https://www.icos-cp.eu/GCP/2018

      They start with US Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency Fossil CO2 emissions, and modify it based upon assumptions about industrial use (particularly cement production), and then add to that emissions from land use and land-use change (ELUC). The key sentence in the paper is "For the US, the EIA emission projection for 2018 combined with cement data from USGS give an increase of 2.5 % (range of +0.5 to +4.5 %) compared to 2017."

      What's interesting about this is if I'm reading the source data right (following the references in the referenced document above), almost all the uncertainties in the paper is due to assumptions about how much Co2 emissions are produced by cement production. Which is apparently poorly documented and changing rapidly as the technology in the cement industry changes. I'm of the opinion that other environmental sources and sinks also have significant uncertainties, but that's what is shown in the paper above.

      Interesting! Most of the uncertainty presented in these estimates is not from power or transportation.. but cement production. Here's a paper on that.. https://www.earth-syst-sci-data.net/10/195/2018/essd-10-195-2018.pdf


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