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The global ocean and the vegetation on land have taken up about half of all anthropogenic CO2 emitted to the atmosphere during the last decade. Photo: Gudrun Sylte

Record high CO2 emissions in 2023

Global CO2 emissions have increased from last year. This brings both emissions and the CO2 content in the atmosphere to a record high.


Global CO2 emissions from fossile fuels are projected to be 1.1 percent higher in 2023 than in 2022. This is the highest level registered, above the emissions before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 26 nations emissions decrease, while some others see a reduced growth. This is not, however, enough to reverse the total growth in emissions.

"It is disappointing that we still cannot succeed in cutting emissions enough, neither in Europe, nor in the rest of the world," says Meike Becker.

The oceanographer from the Geophysical Institute at the University of Bergen and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research is one of the scientists behind the annual carbon budget, released today. 

If the present emission of CO2 continues, the new report indicates a fifty percent probability that we will exceed a CO2 level corresponding to 1.5 degrees' warming within seven years. Bringing the world's temperature back below this limit would demand a massive upscaling of carbon removal after first reaching zero emissions.

Emissions decrease in some regions

In some regions emissions go down, included the USA and especially the EU, but as a total there is no sign of a decrease.

The researchers behind the report conclude that the global activity to cut fossile emissions does not happen fast enough to prevent dangerous climate change. Even though many countries succeed in reducing their emissions, the progress is not fast, nor widespread, enough to put global emissions on a trajectory toward net zero.

The atmospheric CO2 concentration is projected to reach 419.3 ppm for 2023, 51 percent above pre-industrial levels.

As 2023 is not yet over, all numbers are projections based on emissions so far. 

The ocean continues to take up CO2

The ocean and the vegetation on land has taken up around half of all CO2 released by humans to the atmosphere the last decade. So far, the uptake has kept up with the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, despite the fact that climate change weakens some of the natural processes involved. 

From year to year, both global temperatures and the uptake of CO2 in the oceans and in forests are affected by the oscillating behavior of El Niño and La Niña in the Pacific Ocean. In the coming year, the ocean's CO2 uptake may increase slightly.

"The oceans' uptake of carbon has remained quite stable the last years due to a La Niña," says Meike Becker. "We assume that this will change, that we will see an increase in the uptake, as we have now entered a period with an El Niño."

Becker and her colleagues register the CO2 concentration in the global oceans through the measurement network ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observing System). She worries about our insufficient knowledge of the ocean's CO2 uptake.

"It is alarming to see how the number of new measurements has steadily decreased since 2017. Time series of the CO2 concentration in the ocean are invaluable for us to be able to determine the ocean's carbon uptake."

Reduced growth the last decade

The last decade's growth in emissions was lower than in the previous decade. Global CO2 emissions increased an average of 0.5 percent per year in 2013–2022, well below the 2.6 percent growth in 2003–2012.

The increase in fossile fuel CO2 emissions in 2023 is almost equal to a small, though uncertain, reduction in CO2 emissions from landuse. But a total reduction has not yet been achieved. 

In the Global Carbon Atlas you can explore the numbers yourself.