Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CO2 emissions hit new alarming peak in 2010

 One of the most frightening news items of the past few days was that CO2 emissions, which went down during the global crisis in 2009, went up again when the world economy started to recover in 2010. A rise of 5%, no less.
 AFP reported on Monday:

"Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history," the Paris-based IEA said in a statement posted on its website.
After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions climbed to a record 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt), a five-percent jump from the previous record year in 2008, the agency said.
Extra frightening is the observation that
... 80 percent of projected greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 from energy sources are "locked in" as they will come from power plants already operating or under construction.
"This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2.0 C (3.6 F)," said IEA chief economist Fatih Birol.
Climate scientists had hoped that international protocols and government efforts would hold the increase to 2.0 Celsius. Breaching that threshold sharply increases the risk of severe climate impacts, including flooding, storms, rising sea levels and species extinction, scientists have warned.
Another frightening detail is that the increase results mostly from rapidly developing economies like Chian and India:
The IEA estimated 40 percent of global emissions in 2010 came from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) club of advanced countries.

But these only accounted for a quarter of the annual emissions growth. The rest came came from rapidly developing countries, led by China and India.

On a per-capita basis, OECD countries emit on average 10 tonnes, compared with 5.8 tonnes for China, a voracious burner of coal, and 1.5 tonnes in India.
While the OECD countries are able to control the growth of their emission, countries like China, India and other emerging economies would reason that they cannot afford to limit the CO2 emission to the same extend, as this would have a severe impact on the possibilities to expand their economies.

The new CO2 peak comes as 189 countries prepare to resume the UN climate talks in Bonn. The Guardian writes that at these talks no final agreement is expected this year, because of continuing disagreements between rich and poor countries. But progress is expected to be made on reducing emissions from forestry and securing cash to enable the poorest countries to adapt their economies to increasingly severe climatic events. Climate change is not the only result of heightened CO2 emissions, also marine life will be endagered globally. 
"Some of the billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide we emit each year lingers in the atmosphere and causes it to heat up, driving global warming. But about 30% of that gas is absorbed by the oceans where it turns to carbonic acid. It is beginning to kill off coral reefs and shellfish beds and threaten stocks of fish. Very little can live in water that gets too acidic."

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