Quirks & Quarks

Carbon Dioxide Emissions Growth has Stalled

Greenhouse gas emissions have ceased to grow, despite robust economic growth in the last couple of years, which raises hopes that we may be near "peak carbon."

Steady growth in emissions stopped in 2014-2015

Wind turbines on a hill near Jiamusi, in northeastern China. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)
According to the latest data for 2014 and 2015, the steady growth of carbon dioxide emissions that has characterized the industrial age may have, at least temporarily, stopped.

Professor Corinne Le Quéré, a Canadian climate scientist, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and Professor of Climate Change Science and Policy at the University of East Anglia in the UK, led the team that produced the latest global carbon budget numbers. Her team found that - largely thanks to a slowdown in dirty coal burning, and a significant growth in renewables in China - global emissions growth had flat-lined for nearly two years. This is the first time emissions growth has slowed during a time when the global economy was still healthy.

Professor Le Quéré says it is too early to know whether this is a temporary pause, or a beginning of the emissions decline that we need, in the face of climate change.

Related Links

- Global Carbon Budget 2015
Paper in Nature Climate Change
- Tyndall Centre release
- Nature News story
CBC News story