Carbon Dioxide Emissions Climb Again, Heating Up Earth's Climate The fortuitous dip in emissions of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, during the past three years is over, as economies turn up. The trend in the near future looks grim, say climate scientists.
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Carbon Dioxide Emissions Are Up Again. What Now, Climate?

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Carbon Dioxide Emissions Are Up Again. What Now, Climate?

Carbon Dioxide Emissions Are Up Again. What Now, Climate?

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/673821051/673857945" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In Poland, climate negotiators from around the world are meeting to figure out how to keep greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. The task looks harder than ever. As NPR's Christopher Joyce reports, new research shows emissions are getting worse.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: For three years, the news about global emissions of the biggest greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, was pretty good. They were leveling off. But then they started to rise again in 2017, and they're still going up. Rob Jackson is a climate researcher at Stanford University.

ROB JACKSON: Last year, we thought it was a blip or could be a blip, but it isn't. This year, we're up again, the second year in a row. And emissions are rising.

JOYCE: The slowdown and then the uptick are largely the result of what's been happening in China.

JACKSON: Their economy has been slowing a bit.

JOYCE: Which is one reason emissions stalled. But now...

JACKSON: The government is trying to boost growth. And they're green-lighting some coal projects that had been on hold.

JOYCE: India is also using a lot more coal as the government tries to bring electricity to millions who don't have it. Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, Jackson notes that Americans are using way less coal now. But like most everyone else in the world, they're using a lot more of another kind of fossil fuel.

JACKSON: It's cheap gasoline. We're buying bigger cars, and we're driving more miles per vehicle.

JOYCE: Another hurdle reported in the journal Nature this week - China is cleaning up its air pollution. That sounds great for pollution-weary Chinese citizens. But some of that air pollution actually cools the atmosphere. It blocks out solar radiation. Less pollution ironically could mean more warming. Some climate experts meeting in Poland are eager to point to successes rather than a looming carbon apocalypse, like Corinne La Quere from the University of East Anglia in Great Britain. She says take a look at clean energy growth.

CORINNE LA QUERE: Particularly solar and wind power. There has been investment by governments and by businesses in wind and solar energy, and these investments have driven down the cost.

JOYCE: Down to where renewable energy can compete with coal for new power plants. But renewable energy is far from replacing fossil fuels, and negotiators in Poland just got a rude reminder of how hard that will be. In France, a proposed tax on gasoline meant to cut consumption caused widespread rioting. The French government quickly put that idea on ice. Christopher Joyce, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOT SUGAR'S "PLASMA")

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