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Climate: Global CO2 emissions to hit record high in 2012

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U.S. still by far the largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — As delegates to the COP 18 climate talks in Doha, Qatar struggle to find agreement on basic issues — like how to account accurately for greenhouse gas emissions — the Global Carbon Project is reporting that carbon dioxide emissions will climb by 2.6 percent in 2012 to reach a record high of 35.6 billion tons in 2012.

The biggest contributors to global emissions in 2011 were China (28 per cent), the United States (16 per cent), the European Union (11 per cent), and India (7 per cent). Overall, 2012 emissions are now 58 percent higher than in 1990, the baseline year for targets set under the Kyoto Protocol.

This latest analysis by the Global Carbon Project is published today in the journal Nature Climate Change with full data released simultaneously by the journal Earth System Science Data Discussions. The Global Carbon Project is led by researchers with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.

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

“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 Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and professor at UEA.

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,” Le Quéré added.

The analysis shows significant emission reductions are needed by 2020 to keep two degrees as a feasible goal. The research also suggests that the goals are technically feasible, What’s missing is the political and social will.

Changes in energy use patterns in Belgium, Denmark, France, Sweden, and the UK have led to emission reductions as high as 5 per cent each year over decade-long periods, even without climate policy.

“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,” said lead author Dr. Glen Peters, of the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway.

“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 Dr. Charlie Wilson, with the Tyndall Centre at UEA.

Emissions from deforestation and other land-use change added 10 per cent to the emissions from burning fossil fuels. 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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