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Carbon Levels Are Rising Again After Brief Covid Drop

An early estimate of 2021 emissions shows that China has returned to historic levels of coal burning. 

Smoke rises from a coal-fired power station near Datong in China's Shanxi province on Nov. 2. 

Smoke rises from a coal-fired power station near Datong in China's Shanxi province on Nov. 2. 

Photographer: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Global carbon dioxide pollution returned to a pre-pandemic level this year, according to an early estimate by the research group Global Carbon Project prepared for the COP26 talks occurring in Glasgow.

The new numbers vividly illustrate the global challenge posed by decades of delayed climate policy and investment. To meet the 2050 goal of the Paris Agreement, which calls for limits to warming temperatures, nations would now have to cut emissions every year by an amount greater than the combined carbon output of Germany and Saudi Arabia.