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World Carbon Emissions Inch Up, But U.S. Went Greener in 2019, New Analysis Projects

A worldwide team of scientists that includes two University of Maryland geographers has projected further growth of global climate emissions in 2019 in an annual report outlining the current picture of the global carbon cycle.

However, emissions have increased by a smaller margin than in years past, and emissions in the United States are projected to decrease, according to the Global Carbon Budget released yesterday. The team attributes the slower emissions rates to substantial declines in coal use, which were largely offset by a strong growth in natural gas use worldwide.

Emissions from burning fossil fuels are projected to grow by 0.6% globally this year to reach almost 37 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). This is down from 1.5% in 2017 and 2.1% percent in 2018. In the U.S., emissions fell by 1.7% in 2019, due mainly to a 10% decline in coal use emissions. Coal is being displaced by gas in the U.S., and to a lesser extent by solar and wind power.

Coal use also dropped off dramatically in the European Union, with China and India showing slower growth as well. Weaker economic growth also contributed to the global carbon emissions trend.

Professor George Hurtt and Research Assistant Professor Louise Chini of the Department of Geographical Sciences provided new global land-use data used in the report.

Among the key findings: Preliminary estimates of emissions from fire deforestation and other land-use change for 2019 reached 6 billion tons of CO2, about 0.8 billion ton above 2018 levels. This increase stems partly from elevated fire activity in the Amazon, in line with data from the Brazilian Space Agency showing that deforestation in the Brazilian part of the Amazon has steadily risen since 2008, reaching its highest level in 2019. Fire activity was also unusually high in deforestation zones of Indonesia. However, current deforestation rates are still well below those seen in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Find the full news release here.

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