Global Carbon Emissions Keep Rising; Expected To Reach New Record For 2013
Global carbon emissions are expected to rise to new pollution records in 2013, spurred by a combination of factors, including coal burning, China's industrialization, and deforestation. Scientists say the rate of greenhouse gas release puts earth on pace to warm by the potentially damaging amount of 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, by 2100.
A new report from the Global Carbon Project, released Monday evening, shows that carbon emissions are poised to increase another 2.1 percent by the end of this year. That equates to 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide, most of which will have been produced by China and the United States.
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"Emissions must fall substantially and rapidly if we are to limit global climate change to below two degrees," said Corinne Le Quéré in a statement. Le Quéré is a professor at the University of East Anglia, in the United Kingdom, which led the research. "Additional emissions every year cause further warming and climate change."
The release of the report coincides with United Nations climate talks in Warsaw, Poland, this week. On Monday, protesters demanded an end to the coal burning industry, which is responsible for most of the world's carbon emissions. According to the Global Carbon Project report, coal accounted for 43 percent of carbon emissions in 2012. Oil and gas made up 33 percent and 18 percent of all emissions, respectively. "Governments meeting in Warsaw this week need to agree on how to reverse this trend" of annual emissions level records, Le Quéré said.
For the United States, though, there is good news. While the rate of rise of emissions is accelerating in China and India, U.S. emissions have actually fallen by 3.7 percent. The European Union has also curbed its emissions by 1.8 percent, according to the Global Carbon Project's "Global Carbon Budget."
The idea of creating a carbon budget is instructive, experts say, because it's possible to predict, roughly, how much CO2 it will take to push the earth's warming into dangerous temperatures. Scientists had previously identified 2 degrees Celsius as the international community's target ceiling for global warming. That goal was viewed both as practical and as necessary; any higher and the resulting sea level rise and weather changes would be dangerous.
But in recent years, climate scientists have been revising their calculus. Two degrees no longer seems possible. In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released emissions scenarios compared with the likely temperature effect. The highest emissions scenarios put the earth over the 2-degrees benchmark by the end of the century.
"We have exhausted about 70 percent of the cumulative emissions that keep global climate change likely below two degrees," Pierre Friedlingstein, of the University of Exeter, said in the Global Carbon Project release. "In terms of CO2 emissions, we are following the highest climate change scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in September."
Among the other notable statistics from 2012:
- Global emissions from burning fossil fuels are 61 percent above what they were in 1990, which parties to the Kyoto Protocol uses as the baseline for its calculations.
- The worst offenders for carbon emissions were China (27 percent), the United States (14 percent), the European Union (10 percent) and India (6 percent).
- The 2.1 percent rise, while it still sets a new record, actually amounts to slower growth than the average rate of increase, 2.6 percent, for the last decade.
- Per capita, the United States burns more fossil fuels than any other country, more than doubling China's per-person CO2 footprint.
Click here to view a "global atlas" of carbon emissions, powered by the Global Carbon Project.
Above photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
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