Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Greenhouse emissions at record levels with China the leading contributor

Tom Arup, Environment editor
The AgeNovember 20, 2013

Global greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels reached the highest levels in human history last year, driven predominantly by Chinese growth, and are projected to surge even further in 2013.

New data from the Global Carbon Project - a team of scientists who track global emissions - finds carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels and making cement grew 2.2 per cent in 2012 from the previous year. In 2013 a further 2.1 per cent rise is expected.

But the latest data suggests the world's emissions could be slowing. The approximate 2 per cent growth in 2012 and 2013 falls short of the 3.1 per cent average annual rise since 2000.

CSIRO climate scientist Dr Pep Canadell - who is also executive director of the Global Carbon Project - told Fairfax Media the emissions rates of the past two years could be the tentative signs of a global slowdown.

''But it is important to understand it is only a slowdown in growth - emissions every year are still higher than the previous one. Two per cent growth is still a very large number,'' he said.

Dr Canadell said that if current emissions trends continued the world would reach 2 degrees of global warming in about 30 years, a threshold regarded by scientists as triggering the worst impact of climate change.

The data comes as countries are meeting in Warsaw in the latest round of United Nations negotiations towards a new climate change treaty. Through the UN, countries have already agreed to the aim of keeping warming below 2 degrees.

If the Global Carbon Project projections hold the world will emit 36 billion tonnes of CO2 from fossil fuels and making cement during 2013, up 61 per cent from the 1990 levels for those sources.

Fossil fuels and cement making are responsible for 92 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with the rest coming from changes in land use - such as cutting down forests.

Land-change emissions are harder to calculate due to a lack of data in some countries, but the trend since the late-1990s has been improvement. The Global Carbon Project reports 3.1 billion tonnes of CO2 were emitted from land-use change in 2012, a rise on 2011.

China was found to be responsible for 71 per cent of the global rise in fossil fuel emissions in 2012. Chinese CO2 emissions grew 6 per cent in 2012, and its annual total is now almost double the next largest contributor, the United States.
But the 6 per cent rise is slower than China's growth in recent years, which hit 10 per cent in 2011.

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