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New Analysis Shows Recent 4x Growth in Rate of Global CO2 Emissions

12 November 2006

Gcp_graphic
Global CO2 emissions gap. Click to enlarge. Source: GCP.

The global growth in the rate of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels was 4 times greater in the period between 2000 to 2005 than in the preceding 10 years, according to an analysis by the Global Carbon Project, a component of the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP).

Despite efforts to reduce carbon emissions, the global growth rate in CO2 has climbed to 3.2% in the five years to 2005 compared to 0.8% in the period 1990 to 1999, according to the data presented. The data puts carbon dioxide emissions over the last five years as tracking close to the A1B emission scenario from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), according to the GCP analysis.

This is a very worrying sign. It indicates that recent efforts to reduce emissions have virtually no impact on emissions growth and that effective caps are urgently needed.

—Dr Mike Raupach, Chair of the Global Carbon Project

The A1 scenarios describe a future world of very rapid economic growth, global population that peaks in mid-century and declines thereafter and, in several variations of it, the rapid introduction of new and more efficient technologies. A1 is subdivided into A1FI (fossil-fuel intensive), A1T (high-technology), and A1B (balanced). A1FI generates the most CO2 emissions and A1T the least—but even A1T sees a near doubling of pre-industrial atmospheric concentration of CO2 by 2100.

Gcp2
Change in global average temperature under different scenarios. Click to enlarge. Source: Arnell,Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change

The A1B scenario assumes that 50% of energy over the next century will come from fossil fuels, and leads to unacceptably high atmospheric CO2 concentrations resulting in, according to some estimates, a temperature increase of almost 3° C in global average temperature by 2100 compared to 1990. (See chart at right.) Other projections put the A1B temperature increase at 4° C.

On our current path, we will find it extremely difficult to rein in carbon emissions enough to stabilize the atmospheric CO2 concentration at 450 ppm and even 550 ppm will be a challenge. At some point in the near future, we will miss the boat in terms of achieving acceptable levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

—Dr Josep Canadell, Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project

Due to the phenomenon of environmental inertia, even when anthropogenic emissions do begin to decrease, atmospheric CO2 will continue to rise for up to as much as a century. Global temperatures will continue to increase for an even longer period, locking the world into continuing climate change. Effective management of Earth system inertia depends on early and consistent actions, notes the ESSP.

The analysis was commissioned by UNESCO and was presented at an ESSP conference in Beijing and at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP 12) meeting in Kenya.

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..but this doesn't matter because the insignificant amount of NOx emitted by vehicles is more important!

kb,
NOX is also a GHG, and very powerful to boot.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitrous_oxide#Nitrous_oxide_in_an_atmosphere
http://www.ghgonline.org/nitrousoxide.htm

..but this doesn't matter because the insignificant amount of NOx emitted by vehicles is more important!

Right - let's all choke on smog and PMs to "save" the planet.

I'm curious what accounts for this huge increase. I've seen numbers that indicate that over the same period, the United States only increased something like 1.5-2%. What's the breakdown? What are the sources?

In the near future, there will be a big increase in the number of vehicles in China. So I think China will cause huge emissions of CO2 by 2020.

China, India are where the major gains are coming from.

CFCs, PFCs (ie CF4, C2F6, etc), SF6, and HFCs are other GHG, some may last for thousands of years.
___SF6 is used in electrical equipment, and for semiconductor etching, and emitted during aluminum smelting. As much of the third world electrifies/modernise, the potential for increased rate of release goes up. It has an atmospheric life of ~3,200 years, and GWP(100yrs) of ~22,000 (1=CO2).
___PFCs are also in use (refrigerant, fire extinguisher), and are long life (50,000 yrs) powerful GHGs (GWP(100) ~5,700.
___If these two get away from us, there will be grave consequences.

On a side note, proposals for terraforming Mars usually call for the release of SF6, PFC, or other powerfull, long life SuperGHGs.

Besides India and PEC, there is the rest of humanity, another 2-3 billion people. As the world population grows ~50% (9 billion) by 2050, there will likely be a parallel economic growth, and consequently a rise of GHG.

...India and PRC...

China, India are where the major gains are coming from.

China, yes. India, no. The US is #2 in terms of recent gains, and India is #3. The US increase is almost double that of India.

South Korea, Iran, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Spain, and Japan round out the Top 10.

Pizmo I thought besides us (The U.S.)the question was where were the major CO2 gains coming from... China, India. But yes China whith their cars, and coal are making huge enviro consequences. Scientific American just did a special issue on 'Energy Future Beyond Carbon'. The section on coal and China was very interesting and worrying. I still love Startech powered by wind credits to provide our fuel and empty our landfills.

The GOP may be up to something to fix GHG, but it may not come to pass:
http://www.slate.com/id/2153390

When everybody emits as much CO2 & GHG per capita as Americans and Canadians it will be the right time (if not too late) to move to another planet.

We are most probably amongt the worse polluters. It would be unfair of us to insist that China and India (and others) stay at their present very low per capita GHG level.

We have given the bad example for more than 100 years. We, the current and future major polluters, have to reduce our unsustainabe high (total) GHG emission level by 2% to 4% every year. We can do it if we want to.

In the Scientific American special edition mentioned by Andy, there is an article which says that the number of vehicles worldwide is expected to triple by 2050 !
Now we have 750 million, and, by 2050 could be about
2250 million !!

NOX is also a GHG, and very powerful to boot.

NOx normally refers to nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide (NO, NO2), not nitrous oxide (N2O). The former are removed from the atmosphere on a timescale of days, precipitating as nitrous or nitric acids, so they are not significant greenhouse gases.

On the other hand, N2O doesn't form a similar acid with water, and is stable in the atmosphere for many decades. Being isoelectronic to CO2, it also has a similar IR spectrum, except the absorption features are nowhere near as saturated, meaning the effect of a change in concentration is much larger.

Harvey D.,
I liked your comment.
One example of helping to reduce GHG would be, if anyone really needs a SUV, don´t buy V8-powered SUVs, prefer 4-cylinder ones.
And if you do not really need a SUV, buy an station wagon.

The estimates of required reductions in greenhouse gases range from 60 to 90%. Just buying a 4 cylinder SUV is a rather inadequate response to the problems that will occur if we continue business as usual.

My bad, I should state N2O, instead of NOX.
_
Interestingly, aluminum production, from ore, also produces PFC, namely CF4, and C2F6.

http://www.world-aluminium.org/iai/publications/documents/pfc2001.pdf

China and their coal use could be part of the increase. I heard they start up a new power plant every week. However, with global warming, the tundra and perafrost melt and outgas CO2 and methane. This is one of the big "toggle" points climate scientist look for.

I thought besides us (The U.S.)the question was where were the major CO2 gains coming from... China, India. But yes China whith their cars, and coal are making huge enviro consequences.

And why is their economy growing so quickly? Check out our trade deficit.

t,
I know the problem will not be solved just by buying a
4-cylinder SUV insted of a V-8, but, in the short term, this can help a lot if many people do not acquire V8 vehicles.
In my case, as I do not need a big car, I will buy a Toyota Yaris instead of a VW Golf. The Yaris consumes considerable less gasoline than the Golf.
A friend´s Yaris gets 35 MPG in the city and more than
45 MPG in the highway.
Here in México there are not Golf diesel.
There are Jettas diesel but the VW service for the diesels is very expensive and it is not reliable in every VW dealer.

t,
I know the problem will not be solved just by buying a
4-cylinder SUV insted of a V-8, but, in the short term, this can help a lot if many people do not acquire V8 vehicles.
In my case, as I do not need a big car, I will buy a Toyota Yaris instead of a VW Golf. The Yaris consumes considerable less gasoline than the Golf.
A friend´s Yaris gets 35 MPG in the city and more than
45 MPG in the highway.
Here in México there are not Golf diesel.
There are Jettas diesel but the VW service for the diesels is very expensive and it is not reliable in every VW dealer.

Why point fingers at China and India for doing exactly what we have been doing for a few decades. We emit many times the CO2 and GHG per capital. They have a lot of catching up to do.

Once we have reversed the trend for a few years, we may boast about it, but we are not there yet. Canada's GHG is still increasing about 5% per year and may be much worse with tar sands acitivities tripling in the next few years.

My bad, I should state N2O, instead of NOX.

Yet an increasingly important source of N2O does derive from NOx -- incomplete reduction in the 3-way catalytic converter. This is especially problematic when the cat is cold or worn out.

The argument "The USA did it, therefore China has a right to do it too" fails on one essential:

If China does it, the world (including China) is toast.

The rate of atmospheric CO2 increase allows no room for anyone of any consequence to keep increasing emissions.  Everyone's emissions need to head downward.  This means that all nations, China included, should cease the construction of all powerplants and other facilities which emit carbon.  They know how to build refineries and chemical plants, they can build sequestering IGCC powerplants.  Since China is a command economy they can do it much faster than the USA can.

China actually has an advantage going into a carbon-free future, because they have a smaller installed base than the US, Europe, Australia etc. have.  There's no excuse for them to either destroy the globe or demand payment for making an excruciatingly difficult job even harder.

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