September 29th, 2017 by Joshua S Hill
The PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency published its latest annual report on Thursday, based on the latest update of the EDGAR v4.3.2 database — one of the globe’s leading greenhouse gas datasets run by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) — and showed that global greenhouse gas levels increased by about 0.5%, bringing the total up to 49.3 gigatonnes in CO2 equivalent.
It is important to note that a 0.5% increase in greenhouse gas emissions levels is both expected and representative of a relatively flat growth. The authors of the report explain that, “Taking into account that 2016 was a leap year, and therefore 0.3% longer, and together with the 0.2% increase in 2015, the 2016 emission increase was the slowest since the early 1990s, except for global recession years.”
The report highlighted that emissions in all the world’s largest countries stabilized or dropped in 2016, except for India. Specifically, the world’s five largest emitting countries (the United States, China, Russia, India, and Japan) plus the European Union as a whole — which together account for 51% of the world’s population — accounted for 68% of total global CO2 emissions and about 65% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Russia and the United States both saw their levels trend down by 2%, while Japan’s levels dropped 1.3%. China, the European Union, and the group of other G20 members all saw their levels remain around the same as in 2015.
Only India saw its levels increase, growing by 4.7% in 2016.
The overall slump in growth is due primarily to lower coal consumption due to the global switch to natural gas and renewable energy sources, specifically wind and solar power.
However, this year’s report also made an effort to highlight the impact of non-CO2 emissions, determining that the increase in greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 was due mainly to the rise of non-CO2 emissions levels, which accounted for 28%. The most serious of these is methane, which accounts for 19% of global emissions, and stems primarily from fossil fuel production (25%), cattle (23%), and rice production (10%).
The report breaks down the specifics of its cattle figures — with non-dairy cattle accounting for over 16% of methane emissions in 2016, with another 5% from dairy cattle, and manure management for cattle adding another 1% (adding up to the aforementioned 23%). It’s an interesting note to make that not all of our greenhouse gas emissions problems stem from obvious issues like fossil fuel production — though what we do to hamper cattle’s methane production is not an issue I’m going to get my hands overly dirty on.