Good news! Global carbon emissions stayed flat in 2016.
This marks the third year in a row with no increase in CO2 emissions, according to a new report published from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. That’s largely due to a shift away from coal to natural gas, which tends to produce more electricity more efficiently, and renewable energy.
Enough good news. Here’s the bad: When you add the potent greenhouse gas methane to the mix, global emissions were up .5 percent. Methane emissions primarily come from natural gas leaks (see Aliso Canyon) and cattle. Also, this report does not count the forests felled and peatlands burned which likely bumps the numbers up. Finally, halting the growth in emissions isn’t good enough — we’ve got to drive them down.
Nonetheless, climate economist Nicholas Stern told the Guardian, “These results are a welcome indication that we are nearing the peak in global annual emissions of greenhouse gases.” The world has hit the brakes on what looked like unstoppable emissions growth. For the first time in the modern era, the economy is growing without increasing the amount of CO2 it spews into the air.