Global carbon emissions fell in 2015, despite economic growth

coal plant in Beijing

Global carbon emissions probably fell slightly in 2015, largely due to decreased coal consumption in China (coal plant in Beijing shown).

Bret Arnett/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Society’s oversized carbon footprint shrank slightly in 2015, a new bookkeeping of greenhouse gas emissions suggests. If confirmed, the 0.6 percent reduction marks the first drop in carbon emissions since the 2008–2009 financial crisis and the first decrease ever during a period of economic growth, researchers from the Global Carbon Project report December 7 in Nature Climate Change.

Much of the carbon-emission cutback can be attributed to China, which produced roughly 27 percent of global emissions in 2014. This year China significantly decreased its coal consumption and boosted its use of low-emission energy sources such as wind, solar and nuclear power. That decrease probably won’t be sustained, however: China’s carbon emissions are expected to continue to rise until 2030, when the country has committed to begin tapering off its carbon emissions.

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