Posted by: ericgrimsrud | November 13, 2017

Annual carbon emissions reach 10 gigatons!

While we had recently hoped that annual global emissions of carbon had leveled in the last few years, that turns out not to be true. We now estimate that the emissions for 2017 will reach a new all-time high of 10 gigatons of carbon (equivalent to 37 gigatons of carbon dioxide). For more details of this news, see

The all-important figure showing the growth of annual emissions since 1990 is shown below.

Co2 emits

The annual emissions of CO2 by various sectors of the world is shown in the second figure below.  The sectors are China, USA, Europe, India and Rest of the World (ROW)



To put all of this into perspective, climate scientists estimate that the world can afford to emit no more than about 600 billion more tons of carbon dioxide if we are to have a chance of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius.  If we continue to emit about 40 billion tons of CO2 each year, we will reach that point in just 15 more years. Since only gradual cutbacks can be realistically accomplished, its is sobering to see that we have not yet even begun such cut-backs.

So what can we citizens of the USA do in order to help address this worldwide challenge? A good idea would be to set a good example for the rest of the world by drastically cutting our own emissions. A very poor idea would be to send our citizens to the four corners of the Earth by carbon intensive aircraft in order to teach other countries how to reduce their carbon footprints.  “In teaching, example is not the most important thing, it is the only thing” – Albert Schweitzer.



  1. “Too little, too late,” might describe the worldwide adjustment to climate change. The science community has done its job to issue truth and opinion.
    Next up will be the lawyers. Justice will be served. Who will be responsible for the movement of populations caused by climate change? Some coast areas and islands didn’t contribute an excess of carbon. What are they owed, if anything? The air travel by foreign studies programs (that you oppose at St. Olaf College) might enlighten/build empathy for future attorneys and social workers to get involved. I don’t attend church but do like the question, what would Jesus do? Climate change presents a slippery slope, more than just science. Who will pay the bills?

    [Response by EPG: Dave, I think you are talking mainly about adjustments to AGW, not so much prevention of AGW. If we do not do enough to prevent, yes we will have enormous and perhaps impossible tasks in both the prevention and adjustment areas.]

  2. Dave, I think I answered your question, “what would Jesus do?” in my post of July 2017 entitled “the disparate effects of Christianity on climate change”.

    In the first century of Christianity, “good works” were given priority over simple “faith” So, Jesus would certainly have given the maintenance of the physical gifts we were given – the Earth, that is – the highest priority. Lip service and simple faith would not cut it – as it now commonly does.

  3. It is wonderful what 10 giga-tonnes/year can do to green the planet. Happily things will get even better if if emissions keep rising.

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