Global Carbon Emissions May Hit Second-Highest Rate in History in 2021

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The International Energy Agency is forecasting that global carbon dioxide emissions will rise this year to the second-highest rate in history as stimulus funds for the pandemic recession will pour into fossil fuels for recovery.

Carbon emissions expected to reach second-highest historical rate in 2021

The use of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, for producing electricity is expected to be part of driving carbon dioxide emissions to hit their second-highest rate in history in 2021, especially across Asia, according to the forecast of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Guardian reports.

The IEA is especially concerned about the rebound of coal use in the US. The surging use of coal is particularly concerning, especially in the US, because it is occurring despite plummeting prices for renewable energy, which is now less expensive than coal.

In addition, Aviation typically contributes to over 2 percent of global emissions, and while mostly absent in 2020, air travel is expected to rise in 2021.

“This is shocking and very disturbing,” said Fatih Birol, who was the executive director of the IEA, and one of the world’s leading authorities on energy and climate, speaking exclusively to the Guardian. “On the one hand, governments today are saying climate change is their priority.”

“But on the other hand, we are seeing the second biggest emissions rise in history,” Birol added. “It is really disappointing.”

Lockdowns only offered a short reprieve, emissions rose in 2020

As worldwide lockdowns kept scores of people off the roads and slowed production in some industries, emissions across the globe plunged by a record 7% last year.

The shuttering of businesses also cost economic chaos with “job posts near me” being one of the most popular searches as millions around the world were left unemployed.

However, by the end of the year, as some economies began to recover, global carbon emissions were rebounding as well and on track to exceed 2019 levels in some areas, the Guardian reported.

A new report released this week entitled The State of the Global Climate 2020 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations body promoting international cooperation in atmospheric science, climatology, and hydrology, found that concentrations of carbon dioxide rose to 410 parts per million in 2020 compared to 408 parts per million in 2018, reported.

The report comes as global leaders commit to reducing carbon emissions

The expected rise in emissions from the IEA comes as US president Joe Biden has committed the United States to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions between 50-52% from their 2005 levels by 2030.

“These steps will set America on a path of a net-zero emissions economy by no later than 2050,” President Biden said during a speech from the White House on Thursday, as part of a virtual climate summit attended by 40 world leaders commemorating Earth Day, USA Today reported.

“Scientists tell us that this is the decisive decade,” Biden continued, “this is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of a climate crisis.”

Scientists say only a 10-year timeline before point of no return

Many scientists believe that the 2020s are the decade when the world must change course. Climate scientists say the world needs to reduce carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030 in order to reach the limit of global heating to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (21.5 degrees Celsius) before the level of carbon in the atmosphere becomes too high to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.