By Jeremy Hance / Mongabay
Last year global carbon dioxide emissions rose 3.2 percent to a new record of 31.6 gigatons, keeping the planet on track to suffer dangerous climate change, which could propel global crop failures, sea level rise, worsening extreme weather, and mass extinction. According to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), China’s carbon emissions rose the most last year (9.3 percent) while emissions in Europe and the U.S. dipped slightly. China is the currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, while the U.S. has emitted the most historically.
“When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius [11 degrees Fahrenheit] (by 2050), which would have devastating consequences for the planet,” Fatih Birol, economist with the IEA, told Reuters.
China’s massive growth in emissions last year was linked to higher coal consumption in the economically booming nation. In addition to China, India also saw a similar spike of 8.7 percent in its carbon dioxide emissions, pushing the nation to become the world fourth largest carbon emitter after China, the U.S. and the EU. Russia dropped to number five. Japan’s emissions increased 2.4 percent due to greater reliance on fossil fuel power after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.
Both the U.S. and the EU saw slight declines in their emissions. U.S. carbon emissions dropped 1.7 percent due to a rise in natural gas over coal energy, a decline in oil use, and a warm winter, which reduced heating demands. The EU saw a drop of 1.9 percent due to slow economic growth and, like the U.S., a mild winter.
Even as China’s emissions continue to rise, the IEA points out that the nation has cut its carbon intensity (carbon emissions linked to GDP) by 15 percent since 2005. China recently announced it was investing $27 billion in renewable energies, energy conservation, and emissions reduction in 2012.
Still, nations worldwide are not doing near-enough to keep their pledge of not allowing global temperatures to rise 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th Century average warns the IEA.
“The new data provide further evidence that the door to a 2 degrees Celsius trajectory is about to close,” warned Birol in a press release.
Nearly half (45 percent) of the emissions reported by the IEA were linked to coal, 35 percent to oil, and 20 percent to natural gas.
Even as the IEA’s new data was released nations were finishing up another round of international climate talks in Bonn, Germany. However, these talks appeared to be the most acrimonious yet with discussion largely stalemated on procedural issues.
“It’s absurd to watch governments sit and point fingers and fight like little kids while the scientists explain about the terrifying impacts of climate change and the fact that we have all the technology we need to solve the problem while creating new green jobs,” Tove Maria Ryding, coordinator for climate policy at Greenpeace International, said in a statement.