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January 23, 2020 - Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the leading greenhouse gas heating the planet. Six other gases are much more powerful but less abundant. In 2018, greenhouse gas emissions reached 51.8 billion tonnes.
In 2018, the relatively significant increase in global CO2 emissions to 37.5 billion tonnes -- about 66% higher than that of 1990 -- was mainly due to a rise in global coal consumption, according to the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency’s 2019 report. CO2 is responsible for about three-quarters of global warming.
Global methane emissions, generated by coal and gas production and intensive livestock farming, increased to a total of 9.7 billion tonnes carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2-e), up 24 per cent from 1990. Methane is 25 times more potent than CO2 and accounts for almost 17% of global warming.
Nitrous oxide emissions from synthetic nitrogen fertilisers and manure reached 2.8 billion tonnes CO2-e, 28 per cent higher than in 1990. Brazil accounts for the most substantial increase, 4.2 per cent, followed by India 1.6 per cent, the U.S., China and Turkey. Nitrous oxide accounts for six per cent of total emissions.
The rest are the fluorinated gases: HFCs, PFCs, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride. These account for about two per cent of total emissions. Sulfur hexafluoride alone has a global warming potential of 22,800 times that of carbon dioxide. “F-gases” are used in refrigerators, air conditioning and power-transmission equipment. Some are by-products of aluminium production and semiconductor manufacturing. Russia released the most F-gases in 2018, followed by China, Turkey and the United States.