Thursday, November 21, 2013

Global CO2 Emissions Continue to Rise

A recent report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency documents that global emissions of CO2 continue to the rise.  After declining 1% in 2009, CO2 emissions rose 5% in 2010 and increased another 3% in 2011, the latest year for which data are available.  Overall, the increase has averaged 2.7% per year over the past 10 years.  The top five CO2 emitters (in order of emissions) are China, the U.S., the European Union (27 countries combined), India, and the Russian Federation. China alone now accounts for nearly 30% of global CO2 emissions.

The overall upward trend masks wide differences between countries’ individual trends in CO2 emissions.   CO2 emissions rose much more than the global average in China (up 9%) and India (up 6%) in 2011, in part due to their increased reliance on fossil fuels, particularly coal, for power generation.   However, emissions in the U.S and the European Union actually decreased slightly (down 2% and 3%, respectively).  A shift from coal to natural gas by some power plants (which reduces CO2 emission), high oil prices (which discourage gasoline consumption), and weak economic conditions all appear to have contributed to the decline in CO2 emissions the U.S and the EU.   Whether CO2 emissions will swing upward again if/when economic conditions improve or the price of oil declines remains to be seen.

All in all, there’s not much good news here.   We’re still seeing a steady rise in global CO2 emissions.  Despite all the talk at international meetings about the need to halt the rise to prevent further global warming, little action has been taken.   In the future we can probably expect to hear that global warming continues unabated as well.

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