The amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere in 2013 is expected to hit a new high of 36 billion tonnes, according to a Carbon Budget released today by the Global Carbon Project (GCP). This is a 2.1 percent rise from 2012 based on data from the same group.
“We have exhausted about 70 per cent of the cumulative emissions that keep global climate change likely below two degrees,” said Global Carbon Project (GCP) member, Pierre Friedlingstein, with the University of Exeter. “In terms of CO2 emissions, we are following the highest climate change scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in September.”
Nations worldwide have pledged to keep temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, a threshold that scientists say is necessary to have a reasonable chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. But experts say countries are moving too sluggishly on cutting their emissions in order to ensure this goal is met.
The only silver lining in the GCP’s initial 2013 data is that the rate of rising emissions appears to be slowing slightly. Over the last ten years, emissions have risen on average 2.7 percent every year. However, in 2012 emissions rose 2.2 percent, while this year emissions look to rise 2.1 percent. This could indicate a trend of slowing carbon emissions growth, which, if the trend continues, would lead to an eventual decline.
Smokestacks. Photo by: Gregory Heath, CSIRO.
The GCP’s data echoes similar findings in a recent report by the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. This report found that annual carbon emissions growth actually slowed down to 1.1 percent in 2012. Scientists have warned that to keep the 2 degree target, global emissions must peak no later than 2015 and then fall precipitously thereafter.
“Governments meeting in Warsaw this week need to agree on how to reverse this trend. Emissions must fall substantially and rapidly if we are to limit global climate change to below two degrees,” said the leader of the report, Corinne Le Quéré of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.
Governments from nearly 200 nations are currently attending the second week of the 19th annual Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Warsaw, Poland with an aim to make progress toward a new agreement in 2015 (although it wouldn’t go into effect until 2020). However, negotiations have been dampened by announcements from both Australia and Japan that they are weakening their goals for cutting emissions.
In addition to releasing a new Carbon Budget, GCP also announced a new online platform to track every nation’s progress. Dubbed the Carbon Atlas, the new website allows users to easily view both total and per capita emissions by country in 2012.
Top Ten Emitters in 2012 according to the GCP
- 1. China
- 2. United States
- 3. India
- 4. Russian Federation
- 5. Japan
- 6. Germany
- 7. South Korea
- 8. Iran
- 9. Saudi Arabia
- 10. Canada
(11/18/2013) The last few years have ushered in a new national and global awareness of fracking, the 150-year-old technology for extracting natural gas and oil from rock. Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, uses ultra-high-pressure slurries to create hairline fractures throughout solid rock. Oil, and more frequently gas, comes rushing out while sand from the mixture holds the fractures open in this nearly alchemical process. As many readers are aware, there are two very divisive schools of thought on fracking. One side touts it as the future of energy. The other derides fracking as inherently toxic and demands its immediate and permanent cessation. Like so many aspects of life, the truth lies somewhere in between.
(11/18/2013) Around 60,000 Australians marched yesterday across the country calling on their government not to go backwards on climate action, according to organizers. Australia has taken a sudden U-turn on climate policy with the election of Prime Minister Tony Abbott in September, including legislation to end its carbon pricing, cutting funding to renewable energies, and obstructing progress at the ongoing UN Climate Summit in Warsaw.
(11/18/2013) In 2009, Japan pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 25 percent based on 1990 levels within 11 years. Four years later—including a nuclear meltdown at Fukushima—and Japan has reset its goal with a new target to cut emissions by 3.8 percent based on 2005 levels at the UN Climate Summit in Warsaw, Poland. But, the new target, which received widespread condemnation when announced on Friday, actually results in a 3.1 percent rise in emissions when viewed from the widely-accepted 1990 baseline.
(11/18/2013) In October, a global risks analysis company, Maplecroft, named Bangladesh the world’s most vulnerable nation to climate change by 2050. The designation came as little surprise, since Bangladesh’s government and experts have been warning for years of climatic impacts, including rising sea levels, extreme weather, and millions of refugees. However, despite these very public warnings, in recent years the same government has made a sudden turn toward coal power—the most carbon intensive fuel source—with a master plan of installing 15,000 megawatts (MW) of coal energy by 2030, which could potentially increase the country’s current carbon dioxide emissions by 160 percent.
(11/14/2013) For many concerned about climate change, Australia has suddenly become the new Canada. With the election of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister in September, the land down under has taken a sudden U-turn on climate policy, including pushing to end its fledgling carbon emissions program which was only implemented in 2012 and cutting funding for renewable energy. These move come at a time when Australia has just undergone its warmest 12 months on record and suffered from record bushfires.
(11/13/2013) In 2011, the top 11 richest carbon emitters spent an estimated $74 billion on fossil fuel subsidies, or seven times the amount spent on fast-track climate financing to developing nations, according to a recent report by the Overseas Development Institute. Worldwide, nations spent over half a trillion dollars on fossil fuel subsidies in 2011 according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
(11/12/2013) Yesterday, the Filipino delegate to the ongoing climate summit, Naderev ‘Yeb’ Saño, dared climate change deniers to take a hard look at what’s happening not just in the Philippines, but the whole world. Over the weekend, the Philippines was hit by what may have been the largest typhoon to ever make landfall—Typhoon Haiyan. Reports are still coming in days later, but the death toll may rise to over 10,000 with whole cities simply swept away.
(11/11/2013) Following the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan—which is arguably the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall—Filipino delegate, Naderev ‘Yeb’ Saño, has vowed to go on a fast at the UN Climate Summit that opened today in Warsaw, Poland. Saño made the vow during a powerful speech in which he said he would fast, ‘until we stop this madness.’
(11/11/2013) On October 22nd Bangladeshi and Indian officials were supposed to hold a ceremony laying the foundation stone for the Rampal power plant, a massive new coal-fired plant that will sit on the edge of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. However, the governments suddenly cancelled the ceremony, instead announcing that the project had already been inaugurated in early October by the countries’ heads of state via a less-ornate Skype call. While the governments say the change was made because of busy schedules, activists contend the sudden scuttling of the ceremony was more likely due to rising pressure against the coal plant, including a five-day march in September that attracted thousands.
(11/11/2013) While many of the world’s national governments move tepidly (if at all) to combat climate change, cities are showing increasing leadership. The San Francisco Bay Area’s Air District Board signed off last week on a measure to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent within less than 40 years time as based on 1990 levels. The measure follows the same goal as an executive order made by California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in 2005.