Mistaken headlines due to IEA report. In fact global CO2 emissions reached dramatic new record in 2015. Good news is ‘Energy’, not ‘Climate’

But the problem is, no one is properly measuring. We again point to the Keeling curve – this time NOAA’s ‘global average’ atmospheric CO2 concentration over the last 5 years. Very easy to conclude world media are annoyingly wrong today, stating CO2 emissions ‘have stabilised’, while in fact we just broke the all-time CO2 emissions record.

No, we are clearly not on track to do what actually needs to be done, not stabilising CO2 emissions, but stabilising CO2 concentration instead – because, what everyone always seems to forget, CO2 works cumulative:

CO2 emissions record 2015
CO2 emissions record 2015 – ‘global Keeling curve’ for latest 5 years of NOAA. In 2015 the atmospheric CO2 concentration rose faster than ever before, because fossil energy emissions did not decline and large-scale climate disturbances added large quantities of CO2 from the biosphere (Indonesian forest fire CO2 emissions and massive drought-induced CO2 emissions from the Amazon)

As we reported before 2015 was the worst year of CO2 emissions in modern-recorded history. The reason was twofold: We did not lower fossil energy emissions – and positive carbon feedbacks (a result of heat and drought) increased the emissions by some 40 percent.

The good news is not Climate News, but Energy News

The proper conclusion to draw from the energy-related CO2 emissions data that the IEA released this week is that CO2 emissions and economic growth are decoupled. This is only a very meager first step – that can hopefully contribute to future net CO2 reductions.

But let’s not fool ourselves. Stabilising CO2 emissions, should be rephrased as ‘global CO2 emissions did not decline‘ – and therefore atmospheric CO2 concentration rose further, again.

And the fact that such a large chunk of ‘actual net global CO2 emissions’ did not come from fossil energy use directly, but from climate-related disturbances in the natural carbon cycle, should worry us instead of comforting us. This year’s Keeling curve shows the very real risk of runaway warming scenario – just like the recent temperature records, that are also to a large extent climate feedback-induced.

2015 was the year we wasted a larger carbon budget than ever before

No, we don’t deserve compliments – just yet. Not before we see a real decline in emissions, is when we can start to do well. And on all accounts 2015 was the worst climate year in recorded history. In that dramatic record-setting year the combined amount of fossil carbon that we burned grew even larger – and our remaining atmospheric carbon budget even smaller, and faster than ever before.

© Rolf Schuttenhelm | www.bitsofscience.org

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