Climate change

Antarctic ice loss has increased and global carbon-dioxide emissions are at record highs two years on from Paris climate agreement

Emissions from energy use rose 1.6 per cent in 2017; Antarctica is tripling the rate at which it melts

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 4:59am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 6:37am

Two years after roughly 200 nations forged a new United Nations deal to protect the climate, the output of the gases that are blamed for global warming surged to a record, while ice loss in the Antarctic has tripled.

Carbon dioxide emissions from energy use climbed 1.6 per cent in 2017, with both emerging and developed economies contributing to the increase, according to BP Plc data published Wednesday.

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Also on Wednesday, a landmark study was published estimating that Antarctica has lost a staggering three trillion tonnes of ice since 1992, with 40 per cent of that loss occurring in the last five years.

That rate is a three-fold increase in the pace at which Antarctica is shedding its mass, a consortium of 84 scientists reported in the journal Nature, and suggests that the shrinking continent could redraw Earth’s coastlines if global warming continues unchecked.

BP’s data is among the first that provides an estimate of national emissions output for the year. Official data is published later and covers a wider range of greenhouse gases.

In the US, which intends to withdraw from the UN’s 2015 Paris accord, greenhouse-gas output fell for a third year.

Emissions are rising in the run-up to the 2020 start of the Paris deal, which pushed all countries rich and poor to make reductions in fossil-fuel use.

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As emerging-nation economic growth accelerates, countries remain divided about who should finance projects to limit pollution and how extensive national pledges should be.

The biggest increases in emissions were in emerging nations, with a 4.4 per cent jump in India and a 1.6 per cent gain in China. Carbon dioxide output also rose in Brazil, Qatar and Russia, while Turkey’s jumped by 13 per cent.

In the European Union, home to the world’s biggest carbon market, emissions from energy use advanced 1.5 per cent. Greenhouse gas output also rose in Canada.

While the use of renewable energy resources has risen sharply, such use has still not displaced coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Coal’s share of power generation globally has been little changed over the past three decades, the BP data show.

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Programs that put a price on carbon will cover only about 20 per cent of global emissions by 2020, according to the World Bank’s State & Trends of Carbon Pricing 2018 report.

Prices in programmes that do exist are not high enough to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), the main set in the 2015 Paris accord.

As far as the acceleration in the melting of Antarctica reported in Nature, the study’s co-lead author Eric Rignot, a scientist at Nasa’s Jet propulsion Laboratory who has been tracking Earth’s ice sheets for two decades, said, “We now have an unequivocal picture of what’s happening.”

“We view these results as another ringing alarm for action to slow the warming of our planet,” Rignot added.