China’s energy needs are being blamed for global carbon emissions rising for the first time in four years

China’s growing energy needs have been blamed for global carbon emissions rising in 2017, following three years of them remaining constant.

Research conducted by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project has suggested emissions in China are projected to grow by approximately 3.5% in 2017.

Even though there has been an increased effort to use green energy within the nation, coal use is up an estimated 3%, oil use is up 5% and natural gas use is up nearly 12% in China.

“The green economy is booming in China and elsewhere, but growing energy demands are also being met with new oil, coal and natural gas infrastructure,” said Stanford University scientist Rob Jackson, who chairs the Global Carbon Project.

Image courtesy of University of East Anglia

In their paper, published in in the journals Nature Climate ChangeEarth System Science Data Discussions and Environmental Research Letters, the researchers forecast that global fossil fuel emissions will reach a record 37 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2017, with total emissions reaching a record 41 billion tons, including deforestation.

“Global CO2 emissions appear to be going up strongly once again after a three year stable period. This is very disappointing,” said lead researcher Prof Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA

“With global CO2 emissions from human activities estimated at 41 billion tonnes for 2017, time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2ºC let alone 1.5ºC.

“This year we have seen how climate change can amplify the impacts of hurricanes with more intense rainfall, higher sea levels and warmer ocean conditions favouring more powerful storms. This is a window into the future. We need to reach a peak in global emissions in the next few years and drive emissions down rapidly afterwards to address climate change and limit its impacts.”

Image courtesy of University of East Anglia

While emissions are predicated to rise in China, the researchers expect CO2 emissions to decline by 0.4% in the US and 0.2% in the EU; although, these are smaller declines than during the previous decade.

Renewable energy has also increased rapidly, and 2017 should see another record set for the amount of renewable generating capacity being installed.

“This year’s result is discouraging, but I remain hopeful,” said Jackson. “In the US, cities, states and companies have seized leadership on energy efficiency and low-carbon renewables that the federal government has abdicated.”

The Royal College of Physicians says 44 UK cities are in breach of safety guidelines on air pollution

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has today published research that shows 44 UK cities are in breach of recommended World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for air quality.

According to the RCP’s report in 2016 ambient air pollution contributed to approximately 40,000 premature deaths, over 6 million sick days and an estimated total social cost of £22.6 billion per year.

The RCP has now called on the government and local authorities to adopt a comprehensive policy package, including clean air zones, which will hopefully have a positive impact on the nation’s health and in time will save lives.

“We know that high exposures in early life have a major effect on lung and cognitive development throughout an individual’s life – that is why it is the government’s duty to improve the air we breathe and to ensure that people across the UK are not exposed to such a preventable cause of death and illness,” said The RCP’s lead on sustainability, Dr Toby Hillman.

“Addressing climate change and poor air quality isn’t a burden or cost, but fundamentally an opportunity we should grasp with both hands.”

Image courtesy of David Holt. Featured image courtesy of Brian Minkoff /

In its research – conducted in collaboration with Lancet Countdown – the RCP highlighted the fact that the government is currently falling well short in investing in sustainable modes of travel, like walking, cycling, public transport and electric vehicles.

As the RCP points out, all of these methods of getting around have the potential to unlock many health opportunities and would provide an average social return on investment of approximately £5.50 per £1 spent.

“The UK is leading the way internationally on many areas of climate and health – with the recent T-charge a good example. Yet it continues to miss the glaring opportunities that can be implemented today with highly substantial benefit,” said the RCP’s special adviser on air quality, professor Stephen Holgate.

“As the RCP and Lancet Countdown research shows, climate change is here and a health issue today. More can and should be done. The benefits for an overstretched health service alone are justification, but it is clear that the benefits of action will be felt much more widely, both economically and for those most affected by air pollution.”

Image courtesy of Aimee Rivers

Despite its immense public health potential, active travel investment currently represents only a tiny fraction of the £32 billion spent on transport annually.

As of 2017, average UK-wide public spending on walking and cycling is £287 million per year, which amounts to £4.30 per head, but, according to the Department for Transport, this number will fall to only £147 million by 2020.

At the same time, and as the RCP points out in its report, air pollution contributes to many chronic health problems: particularly respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, with growing evidence of effects on other diseases including strokes and dementia.