Record high CO2 emissions in 2023 necessitates urgent global action to avert climate crisis

Annual global carbon budget highlights unprecedented emission levels
Global carbon emissions from fossil fuels have surged to record levels in 2023, posing an imminent threat to climate stability, according to research by the Global Carbon Project science team. The annual Global Carbon Budget reveals that fossil carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are projected to reach a staggering 36.8 billion tonnes in 2023, marking a 1.1% increase from the previous year.
While some regions, including Europe and the USA, witness a decline in fossil CO2 emissions, the global trend indicates an alarming rise. Scientists emphasize that the current pace of global efforts to reduce fossil fuel usage is insufficient to avert the looming dangers of climate change.
Emissions landscape and global inaction
The research further discloses a marginal decrease in emissions from land-use changes, such as deforestation. However, these reductions are still inadequate to counterbalance the high emissions, even with ongoing reforestation and afforestation efforts. The report estimates a total of 40.9 billion tonnes of global CO2 emissions (fossil + land use change) in 2023, maintaining a concerning 10-year plateau.
Professor Pierre Friedlingstein, leading the study at Exeter‘s Global Systems Institute, laments the sluggishness of carbon emission reduction efforts. He warns that overshooting the Paris Agreement‘s 1.5°C target seems inevitable, urging leaders at COP28 to swiftly implement drastic cuts in fossil fuel emissions to salvage the 2°C target.
Race against time: 1.5°C target and remaining carbon budget
The study not only reports the 2023 emission levels but also estimates the remaining carbon budget before consistently breaching the 1.5°C target. At the current emission rate, there is a 50% chance of surpassing the 1.5°C threshold within the next seven years. Large uncertainties exist, mainly due to uncertainties about non-CO2 agents, but the urgency to meet climate targets is unmistakable.
Professor Corinne Le Quéré from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences emphasizes that current global efforts lack the depth and breadth required to put emissions on a trajectory towards Net Zero. While some positive emission trends are emerging, they remain insufficient to reverse the alarming rise in atmospheric CO2 levels.
Key findings and global trends
The Global Carbon Budget report unveils several key findings:

  • Regional emissions vary, with India (8.2%) and China (4.0%) projected to increase emissions, while the EU (-7.4%), the USA (-3.0%), and the rest of the world (-0.4%) are expected to decrease.
  • Emissions from coal (1.1%), oil (1.5%), and gas (0.5%) are all projected to increase globally.
  • Atmospheric CO2 levels are estimated to average 419.3 parts per million in 2023, 51% above pre-industrial levels.
  • Half of emitted CO2 continues to be absorbed by land and ocean sinks, with the rest contributing to climate change.
  • Global CO2 emissions from fires in 2023 surpassed the average, primarily due to an extreme wildfire season in Canada.
  • Technology-based Carbon Dioxide Removal remains minuscule compared to current fossil CO2 emissions.

The Global Carbon Budget 2023 report, compiled by over 120 scientists worldwide, will be published in the journal Earth System Science Data, providing a comprehensive and transparent update on global carbon emissions trends.


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