New research shows record high for global carbon emissions

Dec 02, 2012
Smoke is emitted by a plant in Germany in 2010. Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are rising annually by around three percent, placing Earth on track for warming that could breach five degrees Celsius (9.0 degrees Fahrhenheit) by 2100, a new study published on Sunday said.

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are set to rise again in 2012, reaching a record high of 35.6 billion tonnes - according to new figures from the Global Carbon Project, co-led by researchers from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The 2.6 per cent rise projected for 2012 means global from burning fossil fuel are 58 per cent above 1990 levels, the baseline year for the .

This latest analysis by the Project is published today in the journal Nature Climate Change with full data released simultaneously by the journal Data Discussions.

It shows the biggest contributors to in 2011 were China (28 per cent), the United States (16 per cent), the European Union (11 per cent), and India (7 per cent).

Emissions in China and India grew by 9.9 and 7.5 per cent in 2011, while those of the United States and the European Union decreased by 1.8 and 2.8 per cent.

Emissions per person in China of 6.6 tonnes of CO2 were nearly as high as those of the European Union (7.3), but still below the 17.2 tonnes of carbon used in the United States. Emissions in India were lower at 1.8 tonnes of carbon per person.

Prof Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and professor at UEA, led the publication of the data. She said: "These latest figures come amidst in Doha. But with emissions continuing to grow, it's as if no-one is listening to the entire scientific community."

The 2012 rise further opens the gap between real-world emissions and those required to keep global warming below the international target of two degrees.

"I am worried that the risks of dangerous climate change are too high on our current emissions trajectory. We need a radical plan," added Prof Corinne Le Quéré.

The analysis published in Nature shows significant emission reductions are needed by 2020 to keep two degrees as a feasible goal.

It shows previous energy transitions in Belgium, Denmark, France, Sweden, and the UK have led to as high as 5 per cent each year over decade-long periods, even without climate policy.

Lead author Dr Glen Peters, of the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway, said: "Scaling up similar energy transitions across more countries can kick-start global mitigation with low costs. To deepen and sustain these energy transitions in a broad range of countries requires aggressive policy drivers."

Co-author Dr Charlie Wilson, of the Tyndall Centre at UEA, added: "Public policies and institutions have a central role to play in supporting the widespread deployment of low carbon and efficient energy-using technologies, and in supporting innovation efforts".

Emissions from deforestation and other land-use change added 10 per cent to the emissions from burning . The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere reached 391 parts per million (ppm) at the end of 2011.

These results lends further urgency to recent reports that current emissions pathways are already dangerously high and could lead to serious impacts and high costs on society. These other analyses come from the International Energy Agency, the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Bank, the European Environment Agency, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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More information: The December edition of Nature Climate Change contains three more research papers from Tyndall Centre authors: 'Equity and state representations in climate negotiations' by Heike Schroeder of UEA; 'Changing Social Contracts in Climate Change Adaptation' with Irene Lorenzoni and Tara Quinn of UEA; and 'Proportionate adaptation' by Jim Hall at Oxford University and colleagues from the Tyndall Centres at Southampton University, Cardiff and UEA.

'The mitigation challenge to stay below two degrees' by G.P. Peters, R.M. Andrew, T. Boden, J.G. Canadell, P. Ciais, C. Le Quéré, G. Marland, M.R. Raupach, C. Wilson is published online by Nature Climate Change. bit.ly/Qpt3ub .

Full details of the methods and data used are presented in: 'The Global Carbon Budget 1959' by C. Le Quéré, R. J. Andres, T. Boden, T. Conway, R. A. Houghton, J. I. House, G. Marland, G. P. Peters, G. van der Werf, A. Ahlström, R. M. Andrew, L. Bopp, J. G. Canadell, P. Ciais, S. C. Doney, C. Enright, P. Friedlingstein, C. Huntingford, A. K. Jain, C. Jourdain, E. Kato, R. Keeling, K. Klein Goldewijk, S. Levis, P. Levy, M. Lomas, B. Poulter, M. Raupach, J. Schwinger, S. Sitch, B. D. Stocker, N. Viovy, S. Zaehle and N. Zeng, Earth System Science Data Discussions. bit.ly/UY8GTQ .

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User comments : 4

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Howhot
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 03, 2012
We need to tax the crap out of these polluters! They are destroying the very life essence of planet Earth.
Shakescene21
5 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2012
These numbers show that China's emmissions are now greater that the US and the EU combined. It is futile to curtail emmissions unless China becomes committed. At Doha the official Chinese position is that China is a developing country and that Global Warming is the responsibility of developed countries.
In the forseeable future China is only likely to switch to renewables if coal costs more than renewables. I think this could be done with a massive R&D&D investment (research & development & demonstration). The Physorg website abounds with numerous technology opportunities and more are reported every week. Countries that care about global warming should invest billions more in this until green energy is cheaper than fossil fuels.
baudrunner
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2012
The worst polluters are the cigarette smokers among us. To see how bad it can get, just look at Jupiter and Saturn. I mean, absolutely EVERYBODY smokes over there.
VendicarD
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 13, 2012
It is worth remembering that for the cost of the Bush War Crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, the entire electric grid in the U.S. could have been converted to solar power, at the retail cost of PV panels in 2004.

Panel prices have fallen to less than half that value since then.

That is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Republican Ignorance and Republican Treason.