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Global carbon dioxide emissions

According to the latest global carbon budget, the total global fossil carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2022 are projected to grow slightly above their 2019 levels, after an unprecedented drop in 2020.

A black line on a graph increasing between 1960 and 2022, with the line dropping down in 1990 (following the dissolution of Soviet Union), 2008 (the Global financial crisis) and 2020 (the COVID-19 pandemic. The projection reaches 37.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. 
This chart shows how global fossil carbon dioxide emissions have increased since the 1960s. Note the drops in the early 1990s, in 2008, and the significant drop in 2020. ©  Global Carbon Project

In 2022, emissions associated with the use of coal, gas, oil and cement are projected to increase by 1% to 36.6 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions based on preliminary data.

The projected growth brings global fossil CO2emissions slightly above the 2019 pre-COVID-19 levels of 36.3 billion tonnes.

In 2020, emissions declined 5.4% from 2019 levels because of COVID-19 measures, while in 2021, emissions rebounded 5.1% from 2020 levels.

The projected 2022 emissions show a decrease in China and in the European Union, but an increase in the United States, India, and the rest of the world. The growth in fossil CO2 emissions in 2022 was fuelled by increased oil and coal emissions, particularly oil, as international aviation had a slower recovery from the pandemic than other economic sectors.

Coal emissions have also increased this year in response to shortages in natural gas supply.

Overall, global carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 61% since 1990, though the rate of increase has varied. The primary driver of this increase has been the continued growth in the use of fossil fuel energies such as coal, oil and natural gas. Changes in the pace of that growths have often been associated with the rise or fall of major economies, such as China and the Soviet Union.

Changes in global fossil CO2 emissions

Encouragingly, the last decade has seen a slowdown in the rate of increase in emissions. In the last decade, the rate of increase was just below 0.5% per year, compared to an average increase of 3% per year during the early 2000s. 

This picture depicts a graph with five coloured lines, representing different countries' annual fossil carbon dioxide emissions predictions from 1960 to 2022. The USA and EU lines increase and drop, while EU, China and All Others increase. 
This chart shows the annual fossil carbon dioxide emissions and 2022 projections. ©  Global Carbon Project

Burning fossil fuels (such as coal, oil and gas) is by far the major source of human-derived carbon dioxide emissions. This source alone, with small contributions from cement manufacturing, accounts for around 90% of total emissions. Land-use change (such as deforestation) is responsible for the remaining emissions.

The land and ocean CO2 sinks combined continued to take up around half of the CO2 emitted to the atmosphere averaged over the year.

The extra carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has led to our oceans and land absorbing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in response.

The remaining emissions stay in the atmosphere. This caused atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to increase by about 2.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2021, and is projected to increase by 2.5 ppm in 2022 to reach 417.2 parts per million averaged over the year.

The extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing our climate to warm. The world’s climate will only stabilise when the global CO2 emissions reach net zero. Net zero emissions means that the amount of emissions, if any still left, need to be equivalent to an amount of carbon dioxide being removed from the atmosphere (either by new vegetation or by the direct removal with machines yet to be fully proved).

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