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Global Carbon Budget
Highlights (full)



Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels and industry increased by 0.6% in 2014, with a total of 9.8±0.5 GtC (billion tonnes of carbon) (35.9 GtCO2) emitted to the atmosphere, 60% above 1990 emissions (the Kyoto Protocol reference year). Emissions are projected to decline by -0.6% in 2015 (range -1.6% to +0.5%).

In 2014, the ocean and land carbon sinks respectively removed 27% and 37% of total CO2 (fossil fuel and land use change), leaving 36% of emissions in the atmosphere. The ocean sink in 2014 was 2.9±0.5 GtC (10.6 GtCO2), slightly above the 2005-2014 average of 2.6±0.5, and the land sink was 4.1±0.9 GtC (15 GtCO2), the largest sink recorded over the past 60 years, and well above the 3.0±0.8 average of 2005-2014.

Total cumulative emissions from 1870 to 2014 were 400±20 GtC (1465 GtCO2) from fossil fuels and cement, and 145±50 GtC (549.6 GtCO2) from land use change. The total of 545±55 GtC was partitioned among the atmosphere (230±5 GtC), ocean (155±20 GtC), and the land (160±60 GtC).

coal mine

Emissions from fossil fuels and industry

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production increased by 0.6% in 2014, with a total of 9.8±0.5 GtC (35.9 GtCO2) emitted to the atmosphere. These emissions were the highest in human history and 60% higher than in 1990 (the Kyoto Protocol reference year). In 2014, coal burning was responsible for 42% of the total emissions, oil 33%, gas 19%, cement 6%, and gas flaring 1%. Emissions are projected to decline by -0.6% in 2015 with a range of -1.6% to +0.5%.

Uncertainty of the global fossil fuel CO2 is estimated at ±5% (±1 sigma bounds based on the 10% at ±2 sigma bounds published by Andres et al. 2012).

The growth of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2014 was 3.3%. The 2015 emissions projection of -0.6% is based on multiple national and global sources of information on energy consumption, and based on the GDP forecast of 3.1% by the International Monetary Fund.

CO2 emissions from fossil fuel and other industrial processes are calculated by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center of the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the period 1959 to 2011, based on United Nations Energy Statistics and cement data from the US Geological Survey. When available, data is replaced by self-reported data by countries to the UNFCCC for the period 1990-2012. For the years 2012-2014, the calculations are preliminary and based on BP energy data. Uncertainty of emissions from individual countries can be significantly larger than the global uncertainty.

world showing Asia

Regional fossil fuel emissions

In 2014, global CO2 emissions were dominated by emissions from China (27%), the USA (15%), the EU (28 member states; 9%) and India (7%). Growth rates of these countries from 2013 to 2014 were 1.2% for China, 2.9% for the USA, −5.9% for the EU28, and 8.6% for India. The per-capita CO2 emissions in 2014 were 1.3 tonnes of carbon person-1yr-1 (4.9 tCO2) for the globe, 4.7 (17.4 tCO2) for the USA, 1.9 (7.1 tCO2) for China, 1.8 (6.6 tCO2) for the EU28, and 0.5 (2.0 tCO2) for India.

The countries contributing most to the 2014 change in emissions were the EU28, India, and China, with China and India pushing emissions up and the EU28 contributing the most to the decline in emissions. The top four emitters in 2014 covered 59% of global emissions China (27%), United States (15%), EU28 (10%), India (7%). In 1990, 66% of global territorial emissions were emitted in Annex B countries (industrial countries), while in 2013 this had reduced to 38%.

cargo ship

Consumption-based fossil fuel emissions

Consumption-based emissions allocate emissions to where goods and services are consumed, not where they are produced and emissions released. Transfers of emissions embodied in trade from non-Annex B countries (developing and emerging economies) to Annex B countries (industrialized countries) grew at about 20% yr-1 between 1990 and 2007, but have since declined at about 3% yr-1.

This accounting framework addresses the growing outsourcing of CO2 emissions by countries that consume goods manufactured elsewhere.
The difference between territorial-based and consumption-based emissions (the net emission transfer via international trade) from non-Annex B to Annex B countries has increased from near zero in 1990 to 0.3 GtC (1.0 GtCO2) in 2005, and remained relatively stable between 2006 and 2013.

In 2012 (the latest year with consumption data), the biggest emitters from a consumption-based perspective were China (23% of the global total), USA (16%), EU (13%), and India (6%).

ocean waves

Emissions from land use change

CO2 emissions from deforestation and other land-use change were 0.9±0.5 GtC (3.3±1.8 GtCO2) on average during 2005-2014, accounting for about 9% of all emissions from human activity (fossil fuel, cement, land use change). The data suggest an overall decrease trend in land-use change emissions particularly since 2000. Emissions were 1.6±0.5 GtC yr-1 (5.9±1.8 GtCO2) during the decade of 1990s.

The implementation of new land policies, higher law enforcement to stop illegal deforestation, and new afforestation and regrowth of previously deforested areas could all have contributed to the decline since 2000. The uncertainty for all land-use change emission estimates remains large. CO2 emissions from land-use change are mainly based on forest statistics of the Food and Agriculture Organization and a bookkeeping method by Houghton, updated using emissions from peat fires, and relying on fire emissions from the Global Fire Emission Database (GFED). Emissions presented here do not include other gases than CO2 (e.g. CH4 and N2O).


Emission pathways

Current trajectories of fossil fuel emissions are tracking some of the most carbon intensive emission scenarios used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The current trajectory is tracking baseline scenarios in the latest family of IPCC scenarios, but the continuation of low or no growth as in 2014 and 2015 would change this trajectory. Although the implementation of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs, or emission pledges) could avoid the worst effects of climate change, many studies suggest a temperature increase of 3°C is now possible and even likely without larger emissions reductions.

Long-term scenarios of emissions or atmospheric concentrations are designed to represent a range of plausible future trajectories as input for climate change research. The IPCC process has resulted in four generations of emissions scenarios: Scientific Assessment 1990 (SA90), IPCC Scenarios 1992 (IS92), Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES), and the latest generation as published in Working Group III of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (2014).

ocean waves

CO2 removals by natural sinks

Of the total emissions from human activities during the period 2005-2014, about 44% accumulated in the atmosphere, 26% in the ocean and 30% on land. During this period, the size of the natural sinks has grown in response to the increasing emissions, though year-to-year variability of that growth is large. The 2014 land sink estimate was one of the highest in the 60-year record studied.

The ocean sink is estimated by using observations for the period 1990-2000, and an ensemble of seven global ocean biogeochemistry models for the trend and variability. The models were normalized to the observed mean ocean sinks for the 1990s. Models were forced with meteorological data from the US national Centers for Environmental Prediction and atmospheric CO2 concentration. In addition, three observation-based estimates of the ocean sink were used to provide a qualitative assessment of confidence. In 2013 the ocean sink is estimated to have removed 29% of total (fossil fuel plus net land-use change) CO2 emissions.

The land sink is calculated as the residual of the sum of all sources minus the sum of the atmosphere and ocean sinks. An independent estimate of the consistency of the residual land sink is obtained by estimating the land sink from 10 dynamic global vegetation models.

Sky & clouds

Atmospheric CO2

The annual growth rate of atmospheric CO2 was 3.0±0.2 GtC in 2014, corresponding to an increase of 1.83±0.09 parts per million in the atmospheric concentration. This is below the 2005-2014 average of 4.4±0.1 GtC yr-1, thought the interannual variability in atmospheric growth rate is large. The global atmospheric CO2 concentration reached 397.15±0.10 ppm on average over 2014 and have continued to increase in 2015.

The rates of atmospheric CO2 accumulation are influenced by both the anthropogenic emissions and the net uptake by natural sinks (ocean and land), and their interannual variability is large.

The atmospheric CO2 concentration in 2014 was 43% above the concentration at the start of the Industrial Revolution (about 277 ppm in 1750). The present CO2 concentration is the highest during at least the last 800,000 years.

Accumulation of atmospheric CO2 is the most accurately measured quantity in the global carbon budget. The uncertainty around the annual growth rate based on the multiple stations dataset ranges between 0.11 and 0.72
GtC yr-1, with a mean of 0.61 GtC yr-1 for 1959–1980 and 0.18 GtC yr-1 for 1980–2011, when a larger set of stations were available.

The data is provided by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Earth System Research Laboratory and includes data from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.


Cumulative Carbon Emissions

The cumulative carbon emissions are the sum of the total CO2 emitted during a given period of time. Total cumulative emissions from 1870 to 2014 were 400±20 GtC from fossil fuels and cement, and 145±50 from land use change. This total of 545±55 GtC was partitioned among the atmosphere (230±5 GtC), ocean (155±20 GtC), and the land (160±60 GtC).

The uncertainty presented here is ±1sigma. Notice that other cumulative quantities have been published by the IPCC and the GCP with the starting point of 1750 (i.e beginning of Industrial Era). All periods updated to 2013 and 2014 are available in table 10 of Le Quéré et al. 2015. The 1870 reference period is taken to be consistent with the global surface temperature record whose spatial coverage is too poor prior mid-19th century. CO2 emissions prior to 1870 are low (best estimate is 45 GtC) and very uncertain. Impact on atmospheric CO2 and global temperature would be very small (less than 10 ppm and 0.1ºC respectively).