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For the past ten years, researchers report record emissions of an average of 54 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalents

Photo: Olaf Kraak / ANP / IMAGO

For decades, the approximately 200 countries around the world have been discussing how they can reduce climate-damaging emissions and thus stop climate change. But this has achieved little so far, because the input of CO₂ and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is increasing worldwide instead of decreasing.

Greenhouse gas emissions are even "at an all-time high" and are causing unprecedented global warming, write about 50 leading scientists in an analysis published today in the journal Earth System Science Data. In the first comprehensive evaluation of current data since the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the researchers report record emissions of an average of 54 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalents over the past ten years. In the past decade (2013 to 2022), the warming caused in this way reached an average of 1.14 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels.

The warming caused by mankind is now increasing at a rate of over 0.2 degrees per decade. As emissions continue to rise at the same time, the temperature target of 1.5 degrees set by the Paris Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is likely to be reached soon. According to the analysis, the remaining emissions budget – i.e. how much greenhouse gases may be emitted in order not to break this target with a probability of more than 50 percent – has halved within three years. According to IPCC calculations, the remaining carbon budget in 2020 was around 500 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, but at the beginning of 2023 it was only half as much at around 250 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide.

The analysis reads as if the scientists themselves were shocked by the speed of climate change. Since the World Climate Report is only produced every six to seven years, they now want to compile the most important data every year in parallel. Without an update, this would otherwise lead to "information gaps". However, this can no longer be afforded, and politicians must act faster than ever before, they say.

"This is the crucial decade for climate change," said co-author Piers Forster, director of the Priestley Centre for Climate Futures in Leeds. "The decisions made now will have an impact on how much temperatures rise and how hard the consequences of the climate crisis will hit us."

The current IPCC report impressively shows that with every further increase in global warming, the frequency and intensity of weather extremes, such as heat waves, heavy rainfall and agricultural droughts, increase.

After all, there are now initial indications that at least the increase in greenhouse gas emissions has slowed down, says Forster. "We need to base our policy on the latest findings on the state of the climate system. Time is not on our side," warns the researcher.