CO2 Emissions Falling Globally, Industrial Trends Headed in Right Direction, New Study Says

The year 2016 is set to become the hottest year in recorded human history, but a major report released last week suggests that industrial trends may be swinging in the right direction because CO2 emissions have been flat for 3 years.

Some are cheering the new findings because it shows that industrial growth doesn’t have to go hand in hand with poisoned skies, rivers and oceans.

The authors of the study, published in the journal Earth System Science Data, caution that much of that leveling off is caused by the declining use of coal in China. Still, it does show that concerted efforts at developing fuel saving technologies and alternative fuel sources like solar power is having an effect.

The ‘First Green Shoots’

The data could be a sign of “the first green shoots of success for global climate policy,” said Professor Piers Forster of the University of Leeds. “There is also a lesson for the incoming US administration here — you don’t need coal to drive economic growth,” he said.

US emissions fell by 2.6 percent in 2015 as coal use slumped, and are projected to fall again in 2016.

But 2015 emissions rose by a sharp 5 percent in India and also increased by 1.4 percent in the EU, breaking a period of decline.

But Don’t Get Too Excited Yet

“It is far too early to proclaim we have reached a peak,” co-author Glen Peters, a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, stressed to the Associated Press.

Global CO2 emissions from industry and the overall burning of fossil fuels are projected to grow just 0.2 percent this year. That represents a leveling off to about 36 billion metric tons in the past three years even as the world economy has expanded.

Optimists are suggesting that this shows the link between economic gains and emissions growth may have been severed. In other words, industrial growth doesn’t necessarily have to mean horrible pollution.

‘This Could Be The Turning Point We Have Hoped For’

“This could be the turning point we have hoped for,” said David Ray, a professor of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved with the study. “To tackle climate change those bonds must be broken and here we have the first signs that they are at least starting to loosen.”

What many fear now, though, is that the United States — the world’s No. 2 carbon polluter — could shift course under the new administration of President-elect Donald Trump. Trump has pledged to roll back the Obama administration’s environmental policies, including the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.

U.S. emissions are projected to drop 1.7 percent again this year, as natural gas and renewables continue to displace coal in power generation, according to the study. Obama’s climate envoy, Jonathan Pershing, said Monday that China and other countries would move forward on climate action even if the U.S. reverses course under Trump.

“I’m hearing the same from the Europeans,” he said. “I’m hearing the same from the Brazilians. I’m hearing the same from Mexico, and from Canada, and from smaller nations like Costa Rica and from Colombia.”