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We're Set To Exhaust The World's Carbon Budget By 2030

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Photo: DANIEL SLIM/AFP (Getty Images)

The annual Global Carbon Budget is here, and the news is... just as bad as it’s been for a while. Despite big changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we still haven’t reduced our carbon emissions to a satisfactory level, and we only have ten years before we run out of leeway.

We only have eight percent of our global carbon budget left to use, the report notes. If we exceed our allotted output, that’s when we see the average global temperature exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, which signals massive damage to the planet.


And that’s even taking into consideration the good news:

  • 24 countries saw their carbon emissions drop in 2020
  • COVID-19 restrictions led to an average seven percent decline in emissions, with different countries varying
  • The United States saw a 12 percent decline in emissions, with the European Union following close by at 11 percent
  • 34 billion tons of carbon dioxide were added to the atmosphere, which is still 2.4 billion tons less than last year
  • Surface transportation, which contributes to 21 percent of global emissions, saw its emissions drop by half
  • Aviation saw a 75 percent drop in emissions but only accounts for 2.8 percent of global emissions

If you’re anything like me, 2020 felt like it massively changed the ways you operate with the world. I’ve been on a single flight this year. I’ve carved back my vehicle travel considerably. I don’t go out unless I absolutely have to. So it’s a wild to me that we’ve only seen the smallest dent in emissions growth.

But it also gives us a tangible sense of what’s necessary. It’s fairly easy to talk about how we require a dramatic reduction in emissions, but we haven’t really felt what it’s like. As it turns out, it might feel a lot like a COVID-19 lockdown when it comes to travel restrictions.

We have to carve back our emissions by 25-30 percent before 2030 if we’re going to make any tangible change in the planet. And it’s totally possible—it’s just going to be a lot of work.