Global CO2 emissions increased 3.2% in 2011, reaching record 31.6 gigatons

Image from Treehugger

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.

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Categories: Climate Change, Coal, Ecocide, Fossil Fuels, Natural Gas, Oil, Science

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2 Comments on “Global CO2 emissions increased 3.2% in 2011, reaching record 31.6 gigatons”

  1. May 30, 2012 at 4:05 am #

    I’d say to Greenpeace that solutions are not primarily technological but economic. Greenpeace should be saying to governments that a ‘circular economy’ model could reverse climate change by linking rising growth to falling emissions. http://climatecolab.org/web/guest/plans/-/plans/contestId/4/planId/15101?

  2. June 18, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    I meant the other film on that page, about Cuba’s strategy for coipng with the energy famine of the 1990s. I should have been more specific, but I reckon it’s right up your street. It’s a lot more optimistic than The End of Suburbia.I’ve written to my MP, James Photoshop Purnell, though as always I have difficulty hiding my disgust at him and everything he stands for:Dear James Purnell,The Climate Change Bill is likely to get a second reading in December before being debated in Spring. While it is good to see environmental targets being enshrined in law, the law doesn’t go nearly far enough, and I hope you will do what you can to make it go further. The three following amendments would be particularly welcome.1/ A higher 2050 targetEven Gordon Brown has acknowledged that a 60% cut in emissions may 2050 may not be satisfactory. Some prominent climate scientists go much further than that, and I hope we can commit to at least an 80% cut.2/ Binding annual targetsIf a week is a long time in politics, 43 years is an eternity. Few of us are convinced that governments would pay much attention to a 2050 target in setting day-to-day policy. We need legally-binding annual milestones on the way to any 2050 target, or the latter will become just so much aspirational PR.Incidentally, these milestones will be a great help to the businesses and entrepeneurs whose interests New Labour takes so seriously, and for whom the current uncertainty can only be frustrating.3/ Include shipping and aviationCurrently, emissions from shipping and aviation are excluded from the UK’s emissions total. Given the amount contributed by these sectors, as well as the massive growth currently projected, this makes a mockery of the whole system. I have heard the justification that working out how much of the emissions associated with a flight are attributable to which country are too complex, but this is nonsense: attribute half the emissions to the country of departure and half to the country of arrival.The UK is on target to meet its Kyoto targets merely because of the savings inherent in the politically-motivated flight from coal to gas. As coal mining starts to expand once more, and with imminent massive airport expansion, there is a real danger of our emissions rising dramatically without strong government action. Even the U.N., in its latest reports, acknowledges the immense dangers posed by climate change to our very survival as a species, and I trust you will take these concerns as seriously as they merit.On an unrelated note, I also hope you take some steps in the aftermath of this Photoshop incident to reassure your constituents that their confidence in you is justified, perhaps by supporting the Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill introduced by Adam Price MP of Plaid Cymru.Yours sincerely,Dave Sewell

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