An international collaboration of scientists, in a new report, predicts the percentage of global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels may actually dip slightly in 2015 compared to 2014 levels.
“In 2014, global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels grew by just 0.6 percent,” said the report’s lead author Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth System Science at California’s Stanford University in a press release. “This year we expect total emissions to flatten or drop slightly, despite strong growth in gross domestic product worldwide.”
The researchers noted that the projected 2015 CO2 levels are an estimate and an actual annual level won’t be reported until all final numbers are provided.
The scientists conducted the research on behalf of the Global Carbon Project, an organization that provides regular examinations of the global carbon cycle.
The possible decrease in fossil fuel CO2 emissions in 2015, along with the slight increase in levels in 2014, are contrary to levels posted previously when annual levels rose between 2% and 3% each year, said the researchers.
They also reported that any previous slowdown on annual CO2 emissions also happened to coincide during a time of global economic difficulties. This new possible dip in levels could mark the first time such a drop took place during a period of improved global economic growth.
According to the report, China emitted 27% of the world’s carbon dioxide in 2014. The U.S. had a 15.5 % CO2 emission rate, followed by the European Union with 9.5% and India with 7.2 %.
“Decreased coal use in China was largely responsible for the decline in global CO2 emissions,” said report co-author Corinne Le Quéré of the UK’s University of East Anglia. “After a decade of rapid growth, China’s emissions rate slowed to 1.2 percent in 2014 and is expected to drop by 3.9 percent in 2015.”
The researchers said any continued slow growth of annual CO2 output will depend on the use of coal in China and in other countries, and if more renewable sources such as hydro, nuclear, wind, and solar are used to produce energy.
“But even if we reach peak global emissions within a decade or two, we’ll still be emitting massive amounts of CO2 from burning fossil fuels,” said Jackson.
In order to stabilize the world’s climate, he also said the emissions will need to be reduced to near zero.
“Reaching zero emissions will require long-term commitments from countries attending the climate meeting in Paris this week and beyond,” Jackson said.