E&E News discusses how global CO2 has risen for a century. That appears to be over.
Climate researchers increasingly believe 2019 may represent the world’s peak output of carbon dioxide, with a combination of the coronavirus pandemic and a rapid expansion of renewable energy putting a cap on emissions years earlier than expected.
The milestone would signal a significant shift for the planet, ending decades of runaway emissions growth and signaling the beginning of a new chapter where CO2 levels start to fall.
“It really shows us how close we are to turning this corner,” said Kim Cobb, a professor of earth and atmospheric science at Georgia Tech and the director of the Global Change Program.
Scientists nevertheless cautioned against celebrating the landmark’s arrival. Carbon dioxide can exist in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and its current level of concentration is at the highest point in human history.
Peak emissions would signal the beginning of a long and difficult road toward pushing CO2 output to zero. Researchers also stressed that it’s unknown whether the world has actually reached the zenith of emissions being released through human activity. Aggressive efforts to address the economic wreckage of the pandemic could jump-start a fresh wave of emissions, experts said.
A recent report by the International Energy Agency estimated that demand for coal will fall 9% this year, while demand for renewables will increase slightly.