CO2 emissions booming, shifting east, researchers report

Sep 24, 2008

Despite widespread concern about climate change, annual carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels and manufacturing cement have grown 38 percent since 1992, from 6.1 billion tons of carbon to 8.5 billion tons in 2007.

At the same time, the source of emissions has shifted dramatically as energy use has been growing slowly in many developed countries but more quickly in some developing countries, most notably in rapidly developing Asian countries such as China and India. These are the findings of an analysis completed by the Department of Energy's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"The United States was the largest emitter of CO2 in 1992, followed in order by China, Russia, Japan and India," said Gregg Marland of ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division. "The most recent estimates suggest that India passed Japan in 2002, China became the largest emitter in 2006, and India is poised to pass Russia to become the third largest emitter, probably this year."

The latest estimates of annual emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere indicate that emissions are continuing to grow rapidly and that the pattern of emissions has changed markedly since the drafting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. It was then that the international community expressed concern about limiting emissions of greenhouse gases.

In the Kyoto Protocol, 38 developed countries initially agreed to limit their emissions of greenhouse gases in an effort to minimize their potential impact on the Earth's climate system. At the time of drafting the United Nations Convention, those 38 countries were responsible for 62 percent of carbon dioxide emissions attributable to all countries. By the time the Kyoto Protocol was drafted in 1997 that fraction was down to 57 percent.

The recent emissions estimates show that by the time the Kyoto Protocol came into force in 2005 those 38 countries were the source of less than half of the national total of emissions (an estimated 49.7 percent), and this value as of 2007 was 47 percent. More than half of global emissions are now from the so-called "developing countries." The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 181 countries, but not by the United States.

Marland emphasizes that these emissions numbers are subject to some uncertainty – about 5 percent for the United States but possibly as much as 20 percent for China.

"These are our best estimates, but precise numbers cannot be known with certainty," Marland said. "Also, as countries with less certain data become more important to the overall CO2 picture, the estimates of the global total of emissions become less certain."

While this national distribution of emissions is significant in the context of international agreements like the Kyoto Protocol, its practical significance is less clear in a world linked by international commerce, co-author Jay Gregg of the University of Maryland noted. A recent study has estimated, for example, that a third of CO2 emissions from China in 2005 were due to production of goods for export. Current estimates of national CO2 emissions show simply the amount of CO2 emitted from within a country and do not take into consideration the impact of international trade in goods and services or the energy used in international travel and transport.

The new estimates of CO2 emissions are based on energy data through 2005 from the United Nations, cement data through 2005 from the U.S. Geological Survey, energy data for 2006 and 2007 from BP, and extrapolations by Marland, Gregg and co-authors Tom Boden and Bob Andres of ORNL.

Burning fossil fuels and manufacturing cement – along with deforestation -- are the most important human-related sources of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, according to the researchers. The cement data take into account the breakdown of limestone to produce lime. Researchers also note that the new CO2 data include minor downward revisions of estimates for recent years, but the trends are not changed.

Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Explore further: Rising anger as Nicaragua canal to break ground

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bioplastic – greener than ever

Dec 03, 2014

Polylactic acid is a degradable plastic used mostly for packaging. To meet the rising demand, ETH researchers have developed an eco-friendly process to make large amounts of lactic acid from glycerol, a waste ...

India shines with renewable energy announcement

Dec 01, 2014

As world leaders gather in Lima, Peru for the next round of the UN climate negotiations, India announced that it intends to more than double its use of renewable energy as a share of its electricity mix by ...

Rare optimism ahead of climate talks in Lima

Nov 29, 2014

Energized by new targets set by China and the United States, the world's top climate polluters, U.N. global warming talks resume Monday with unusual optimism despite evidence that human-generated climate ...

Recommended for you

Rising anger as Nicaragua canal to break ground

14 hours ago

As a conscripted soldier during the Contra War of the 1980s, Esteban Ruiz used to flee from battles because he didn't want to have to kill anyone. But now, as the 47-year-old farmer prepares to fight for ...

Hopes, fears, doubts surround Cuba's oil future

Dec 20, 2014

One of the most prolific oil and gas basins on the planet sits just off Cuba's northwest coast, and the thaw in relations with the United States is giving rise to hopes that Cuba can now get in on the action.

New challenges for ocean acidification research

Dec 19, 2014

Over the past decade, ocean acidification has received growing recognition not only in the scientific area. Decision-makers, stakeholders, and the general public are becoming increasingly aware of "the other carbon dioxide ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

NotParker
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 25, 2008
"On July 25, 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was finalized (although it had been fully negotiated, and a penultimate draft was finished), the U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95%u20130 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98),[40] which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States". On November 12, 1998, Vice President Al Gore symbolically signed the protocol."

Great foresight by the US Senate to realize that India and China would become the big producers of CO2.
deepsand
2 / 5 (4) Sep 26, 2008
Guess you missed the fact that those emissions are from plants that 1) the West expatriated, and 2) produce goods to meet Western demands.

All we did was outsource our emissions.
GrayMouser
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 26, 2008
Guess you missed the fact that those emissions are from plants that 1) the West expatriated, and 2) produce goods to meet Western demands.

All we did was outsource our emissions.


Guess you missed the fact that they wanted those factories and the improvements in their quality of lie that they brought. After all, China didn't create their economic zones in order to spread communisim.
GrayMouser
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 27, 2008
As another point. Kyoto explicitly excludes China and India from it's limits. This encourages the movement of factories from North America and Europe, where they would be covered, to China and India (because they have the stability to make the movement attractive) where they are not covered.

From what I've seen this was done on purpose.
Bazz
2 / 5 (4) Sep 28, 2008
From what I've seen thats what you choose to believe ,this was done on purpose.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.