[Marxism] Greenhouse Gas Emissions Accelerate Like a ‘Speeding Freight Train’ in 2018

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Dec 6 06:38:12 MST 2018


NY Times, Dec. 6, 2018
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Accelerate Like a ‘Speeding Freight Train’ in 2018
By Kendra Pierre-Louis

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’ve seen oil use go up five years in a row,” said Rob Jackson, a 
professor of earth system science at Stanford and an author of one of 
two studies published Wednesday. “That’s really surprising.”

Worldwide, carbon emissions are expected to increase by 2.7 percent in 
2018, according to the new research, which was published by the Global 
Carbon Project, a group of 100 scientists from more than 50 academic and 
research institutions and one of the few organizations to 
comprehensively examine global emissions numbers. Emissions rose 1.6 
percent last year, the researchers said, ending a three-year plateau.

Reducing carbon emissions is central to stopping global warming. Three 
years ago nearly 200 nations hammered out the Paris Agreement with a 
goal of holding warming below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (two degrees 
Celsius) over preindustrial levels.

Avoiding that threshold — already considered challenging — is viewed as 
a way to stave off some of the worst effects of climate change, like 
melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels. For the Paris goals to be 
met, scientists say, global emissions from power plants, factories, cars 
and trucks, as well as those from deforestation, would need to swiftly 
begin declining to zero.

President Trump, however, has vowed to pull the United States out of the 
accord and has moved to roll back Obama-era regulations designed to 
limit emissions from vehicle tailpipes and power-plant smokestacks. On 
Tuesday he wrote on Twitter that the Paris Agreement was “fatally 
flawed” because its system of voluntary pledges let other countries off 
the hook, adding that “American taxpayers — and American workers — 
shouldn’t pay to clean up others countries’ pollution.”

An American withdrawal would represent a serious blow to the pact. The 
United States, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, is 
responsible for a third of all human-caused carbon emissions to date, 
more than any other country. China is now the largest emitter of 
heat-trapping gases.

The new report comes as delegates from nearly 200 countries are meeting 
in Poland to debate their next steps under the Paris climate agreement. 
Many nations haven’t been meeting their self-imposed targets.

The new assessment is the third major scientific report in recent months 
to send a message that the world is failing to make sufficient progress 
to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Last month the White House published findings by 13 federal agencies 
predicting that global warming could knock hundreds of billions of 
dollars off the size of the American economy by century’s end, 
particularly by disrupting trade and agriculture. And in October, the 
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations scientific 
group, issued an alarming report warning that emissions are rising at a 
rate that will open the door to widespread food shortages, wildfires, 
coastal flooding and population displacement by 2040.

As part of the latest report, scientists wrote Wednesday in the journal 
Nature that the recent rise in global emissions, combined with other 
factors such as natural temperature fluctuations, could bring those dire 
consequences a decade sooner, by 2030.

“For those of us that work in this space, seeing the rates of emissions 
accelerate is deeply dismaying, and it confirms the very clear lack of 
systemic action and change that we’re seeing across many lines of state, 
national and global organization,” said Sarah E. Myhre, a research 
associate at the University of Washington who was not involved in the 
studies.

“It just means that the problem will be harder to fix down the line,” 
she said. “We’re continuing to buck-pass this problem to our kids and 
our future selves.”

The analysis found that the world is on pace to release a record 37.1 
gigatons of planet-warming emissions in 2018, led in large part by 
China, the United States and India. That is roughly 100,000 times the 
weight of the Empire State Building.

Even as coal has fallen out of favor in some markets, the rise in 
emissions has been driven by stronger demand for natural gas and oil, 
scientists said. And even as the use of renewable energy like solar and 
wind power has expanded exponentially, it has not been enough to offset 
the increased use of fossil fuels.

“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.”

More investment will be needed in the transportation sector to cut 
pollution, said Corinne Le Quéré, a professor of climate change science 
and policy at the University of East Anglia and lead author of one of 
the new studies. “We have electric cars, but we need charging points, we 
need to lower the costs of electric vehicles,” she said.

China produces 27 percent of global emissions, according to the report. 
The United States accounts for 15 percent of emissions, the European 
Union 10 percent and India 7 percent.

China’s emissions are projected to rise 4.7 percent in 2018, the report 
said. The country is stimulating manufacturing to counterbalance its 
slowing economy, allowing more coal-based manufacturing that it had 
avoided in the past, Dr. Jackson said.

China is investing heavily in renewable energy, but it is also building 
new coal-fired power plants at home and planning others in new markets 
such as sub-Saharan Africa.

United States emissions are expected to rise 2.5 percent this year after 
several years of declines, and despite a shift away from coal toward 
cleaner sources of energy. Dr. Jackson attributed part of the increase 
this year to a colder-than-normal winter in some parts of the country 
and a hotter summer in other parts, which inflated demand for heating 
and cooling.

In India, a projected emissions increase of 6.3 percent is linked to the 
country’s effort to provide electricity to 300 million people who 
currently lack it.

Last year, extreme weather disasters cost the United States a record 
$306 billion.

Dr. Jackson said the new report was “not good news,” but added that it 
still contained “some glimmers of hope,” particularly about air 
pollution associated with the burning of coal for fuel. “Coal use has 
dropped 40 percent in the United States, replaced by natural gas and 
renewables,” he said. “That’s saving lives as well as helping the 
climate problem.”

For more news on climate and the environment, follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.

Kendra Pierre-Louis is a reporter on the climate team. Before joining 
The Times in 2017, she covered science and the environment for Popular 
Science. @kendrawrites


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