Robbie Andrew

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Persistent growth of CO2 emissions and implications for reaching climate targets


Abstract

Efforts to limit climate change below a given temperature level require that global emissions of CO2 cumulated over time remain below a limited quota. This quota varies depending on the temperature level, the desired probability of staying below this level and the contributions of other gases. In spite of this restriction, global emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion and cement production have continued to grow by 2.5% per year on average over the past decade. Two thirds of the CO2 emission quota consistent with a 2°C temperature limit has already been used, and the total quota will likely be exhausted in a further 30 years at the 2014 emissions rates. We show that CO2 emissions track the high end of the latest generation of emissions scenarios, due to lower than anticipated carbon intensity improvements of emerging economies and higher global gross domestic product growth. In the absence of more stringent mitigation, these trends are set to continue and further reduce the remaining quota until the onset of a potential new climate agreement in 2020. Breaking current emission trends in the short term is key to retaining credible climate targets within a rapidly diminishing emission quota.

Sharing a quota on cumulative carbon emissions

Any limit on future global warming is associated with a quota on cumulative global CO2 emissions. We translate this global carbon quota to regional and national scales, on a spectrum of sharing principles that extends from continuation of the present distribution of emissions to an equal per-capita distribution of cumulative emissions.Learn more »

Betting on Negative Emissions

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage could be used to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, its credibility as a climate change mitigation option is unproven and its widespread deployment in climate stabilization scenarios might become a dangerous distraction.Learn more »

Staying below 2°C

Global emissions are tracking the most pessimistic scenarios used by the IPCC. Glen Peters and colleagues present a comparison of emissions with all four sets of scenarios used by the IPCC since 1990, and argue that inertia in both human systems and the climate system make a 2°C goal harder with every day of inaction.Learn more »


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