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Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions at 'all-time high'

A team of scientists have developed an open platform with key information about the state of the climate.

GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS are at an “all-time high”, according to new analysis by a team of more than 50 scientists.

Human activities have released around 54 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year on average over the last decade, pushing human-induced temperature rise to a pace of 0.2 degrees of increase every ten years.

A team of over 50 scientists is trying to fill an “information gap” in climate knowledge, bridging the wait between authoritative assessment reports that take between five and ten years to be published.

The team, which includes Professor Peter Thorne of Maynooth University, has developed an open platform that will be updated annually with information about key indicators of climate change, such as average temperatures, greenhouse gas emissions, and the concentration levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The researchers say the project will allow policymakers, negotiators and civil society groups to access up-t0-date information when making important decisions about climate action. 

Professor Thorne said that it is “critical that policy makers and the general public be made aware of how quickly we are changing the climate through our collective activities”.

“Already since the IPCC assessment of the physical science basis in 2021, key numbers have changed markedly and we remain well off track globally to avert warming above 1.5 degrees.”

One of the key findings of the analysis released today is that human-caused global warming, which is largely due to the burning of fossil fuels, reached an average of 1.14°C above industrial levels for 2013 to 2022, up from 1.07°C between 2010 and 2019.

At the same time, the world’s carbon budget - an estimate of how much carbon can be released into the atmosphere while still retaining a 50% chance of restricting global temperature rise to within 1.5°C – has declined at an alarming rate.

Calculations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2020 put the remaining carbon budget was around 500 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide.

By the start of 2023, the figure had fallen to roughly half that to around 250 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide due to a combination of continued emissions and updated estimates of human-induced warming. 

Professor Piers Forster, Director of the Priestley Centre for Climate Futures at Leeds and co-ordinator of the project, said that “even though we are not yet at 1.5°C warming, the carbon budget will likely be exhausted in only a few years as we have a triple whammy of heating from very high CO2 emissions, heating from increases in other GHG emissions and heating from reductions in pollution”.

“If we don’t want to see the 1.5°C goal disappearing in our rearview mirror, the world must work much harder and urgently at bringing emissions down,” Professor Forster said.

“Our aim is for this project to help the key players urgently make that important work happen with up-to-date and timely data at their fingertips.”

In a statement today, he said that “this is the critical decade for climate change”.

“Decisions made now will have an impact on how much temperatures will rise and the degree and severity of impacts we will see as a result.

Long-term warming rates are currently at a long-term high, caused by highest-ever levels of greenhouse gas emissions. But there is evidence that the rate of increase in greenhouse gas emissions has slowed.

“We need to be nimble footed in the face of climate change. We need to change policy and approaches in the light of the latest evidence about the state of the climate system.

“Time is no longer on our side. Access to up-to-date information is vitally important.”

Average global temperatures fluctuate year to year but are on an upward trend due to climate change, which is being driven by human activities’ emission of greenhouse gases that trap heat inside the atmosphere.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries agreed to try to prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

The climate crisis has already caused “substantial damages” and “irreversible losses” to the planet

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