Record Jump in CO2 Brings New Urgency to Global Talks
Annual global emissions of carbon dioxide — a primary greenhouse gas that causes global warming — jumped by 6 percent in 2010, the largest amount on record, according to a report this month issued by the U.S. Department of Energy. The new levels are worse that the worst-case scenario described by climate scientists just four years ago.
The primary source of the emissions are fossil fuel combustion and cement manufacture. The report states that China accounts for most of the increase. However, the U.S. also has not made progress in cutting emissions. U.S. CO2 emissions are up 4% from 2009 and are at 94% of 2007 levels, which was the highest year ever recorded for American carbon dioxide emissions.
The Underside of Economic Recovery
The increase may serve as an indicator that the global economy is getting back to a growth scenario. Tom Boden, director of the Energy Department’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Lab noted of the increase, “It’s a big jump. From an emissions standpoint, the global financial crisis seems to be over.” The Guardian quotes the co-director of MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, John Reilly: “Broader economic improvements in poor countries has been bringing living improvements to people. Doing it with increasing reliance on coal is imperiling the world.”
Kyoto Signers’ CO2 Declines
Emissions have actually declined from the three dozen developed nations that signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. China and the U.S. did not sign that agreement, which expires next year.
New Round of Talks Begins This Month
The next round of climate talks gets underway November 28 in Durban, South Africa.The European Union has agreed to offer to cut emissions by 30%, up from the 20% promised earlier, if a strong global deal that binds all major emitting countries to a similar goal can be reached. European climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said last week that while a final agreement is not expected at Durban, she expects that the COP17 conference will agree to a road map for reaching a comprehensive climate deal by 2015.
Photo: Shanghai factories 12-17-09 © Brent Heit via iStockphoto