The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Economic Recovery Brings Return to Growth of CO2 Emissions
Although global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) declined slightly in 2009, the beginnings of economic recovery led to an unprecedented emissions increase of 5.8 percent in 2010. In 2011, global atmospheric levels of CO2 reached a high of 391.3 parts per million (ppm), up from 388.6 ppm in 2010 and 280 ppm in pre-industrial times. According to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online project, energy use represents the largest source of global CO2emissions.
More than 70 percent of CO2 emissions result from the burning of fossil fuels for energy use, such as electricity generation, transportation, manufacturing and construction. In 2009, electricity generation and heating alone accounted for 41 percent of all energy related CO2 emissions.
“Unfortunately for the future of climate, the global economy remains tightly coupled to fossil fuel combustion and carbon dioxide emissions,” said Worldwatch President Robert Engelman. “We gained a short respite from increases in CO2 emissions—but only at the cost of an economic downturn. Now we are rebounding economically—at the cost of once again accelerating the approach of a high-risk warming that the world’s nations have so far been unable to address.”
The report highlights emissions increases in both industrialized and developing economies. Member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of industrialized countries, increased their emissions by 3.4 percent in 2010, while countries outside the OECD saw an increase of 7.6 percent. Although China was the world’s largest overall emitter in 2010 (followed by the U.S., India and Russia), an examination of emissions per capita tells a different story. China ranks only 61st in terms of the CO2 emitted per person. In India—the world’s third largest emitter—emissions per capita rank far below the world average. The U.S., in contrast, ranks second overall and 10th in per capita emissions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has long stressed the urgent need for cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, according to the Worldwatch report, national governments have largely failed to bring about the needed reductions.
“The Kyoto Protocol is an important achievement because it is the only international instrument that sets legally binding targets, yet it is increasingly becoming symbolic as it now only regulates around 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” says author and Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy Research Associate, Xing Fu-Bertaux. Global CO2 levels are now 45 percent above the 1990 level, which serves as the reference base year for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Several Annex I countries—including the U.S., which signed but never ratified the Kyoto Protocol—will be unable to meet their original reductions targets. Since December 2011, Canada, Japan and Russia, have chosen not to take on additional emissions targets within the second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol in the coming decade.
- In 2010, coal combustion accounted for 40 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions, while oil and natural gas represented 37 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Coal generates roughly twice as much CO2 as gas and oil.
- Carbon intensity—or the CO2 emissions released per unit of gross domestic product—varies significantly worldwide, reflecting disparities in economic reliance on fossil fuels in various countries. The highest carbon intensities occur in the Middle East, but low-carbon economies such as Japan highlight the possibility of achieving high living standards with lower CO2 emissions.
- In 2009, more than 70 percent of global CO2 emissions resulted from burning fossil fuels for electricity generation, transportation, manufacturing and construction.
For more information, click here.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Microsoft announced ambitious new plans to become carbon negative by 2030 and then go one step further and remove by 2050 all the carbon it has emitted since the company was founded in 1975, according to a company press release.
Winter is upon us and so is the risk of vitamin D deficiency and infections. Vitamin D, which is made in our skin following sunlight exposure and also found in oily fish (mackerel, tuna and sardines), mushrooms and fortified dairy and nondairy substitutes, is essential for good health. Humans need vitamin D to keep healthy and to fight infections. The irony is that in winter, when people need vitamin D the most, most of us are not getting enough. So how much should we take? Should we take supplements? How do we get more? And, who needs it most?
An expanse of uncommonly warm seawater in the Pacific Ocean created by a marine heatwave led to a mass die-off of one million seabirds, scientists have found.