Global Carbon Emissions Set Record High In 2012
December 3, 2012

Global Carbon Emissions Set Record High In 2012

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Global carbon dioxide emissions are projected to increase by 2.6 percent for 2012, setting a record high of around 39 billion tons, according to a new report from an international team of researchers.

The report, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, comes from the Global Carbon Project–a group of scientists and policymakers from around the world dedicated to promoting a coordinated research on the Earth´s carbon cycle and sustainability.

"These latest figures come amidst climate talks in Doha. But with emissions continuing to grow, it's as if no-one is listening to the entire scientific community,” said lead author Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and a professor at University of East Anglia in the U.K.

The report´s projections for 2012 would mean that global emissions from fossil fuels are 58 percent above 1990 levels, the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol, the largest international climate treaty.

The team´s projections are based partially on 2011 figures that show China as the globe´s biggest emissions culprit (28 percent of total emissions), followed by the United States (16 percent), the European Union (11 percent), and India (7 percent).

While China and India drove the 2011 CO2 emission levels, increasing by 9.9 and 7.5 percent respectively, the United States and the European Union decreased their emission levels by 1.8 and 2.8 percent. However, the United States led emissions per person, with 19 tons, followed by the European Union at 8 tons per person; China was listed close behind with 7.3.

Emissions calculated from deforestation and other types of land use added 10 percent to the total emissions from burning fossil fuels, according the report. The researchers determined that the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere reached 391 parts per million (ppm) at the end of 2011.

Observers are concerned that another global increase in emissions would put CO2 levels above those required to keep global warming below the international target of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the report, significant emission reductions are necessary by 2020 to keep global average temperatures below that limit.

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

The report noted some progress with respect to reducing emissions. Transitions to clean energy in Belgium, Denmark, France, Sweden, and the UK have led to emission reductions as high as 5 percent each year over the course of several years, despite a pro-active climate policy.

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

"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,” said co-author Charlie Wilson, of the Tyndall Centre.