The growth of global carbon emissions is starting to slow down, according to a study published Monday in Earth System Science Data. Emissions will rise just 0.2 percent from 2015 to 2016, the study found, following a 0.7 percent increase the previous year. It’s an encouraging trend in what many consider the single most important metric in humanity’s fight to mitigate global climate change.
The shift is largely due to a decline in China’s appetite for coal, in part aided by the country’s economic slowdown. US emissions dropped by 2.6 percent over the same period.
The study is not entirely good news. Global carbon emissions are still significantly higher than they’ve been at any point in human history, as demonstrated by the above data from a study at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Mitigating the worst effects of climate change will require those emissions to drastically decline over the coming years, rather than simply holding in place. As part of the Paris accords, the US has committed to reducing its total emissions by at least 26 percent from 2005 to 2025, a target the country is still not close to meeting. As President-elect Trump prepares for office, many researchers are pessimistic that the country will take the necessary steps to meet those goals.
Still, a slowdown in emissions is better than an increase, and climate scientists see the numbers as a tentative sign that the world is beginning to respond to the grave challenges of climate change.