Record global fossil fuel emissions in 2010

By Adrian Bishop - 05 Dec 2011 18:11:0 GMT
Record global fossil fuel emissions in 2010

Fossil fuel emissions via Shutterstock

Worldwide fossil fuel emissions have risen 49% in the last 20 years to a record 10 billion tonnes last year, say researchers. Carbon dioxide levels caused by fossil fuel burning rose 5.9% last year to a new high, figures from the Global Carbon Project reveals.

From 2000-2010, fossil fuel emissions increased by an annual average of 3.1%, significantly above the 2% target set to avoid catastrophic consequences, says the report, Rapid growth in CO2 emissions after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis'.

The report's co-author, Prof Corinne Le Quere, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and professor at the University of East Anglia, says, "Global CO2 emissions since 2000 are tracking the high end of the projections used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which far exceed two degrees warming by 2100. Yet governments have pledged to keep warming below two degrees to avoid the most dangerous aspects of climate change such as widespread water stress and sea level rise, and increases in extreme climatic events. Taking action to reverse current trends is urgent."

Lead author, Dr Glen Peters, of the Norway-based Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research, says, "Many saw the global financial crisis as an opportunity to move the global economy away from persistent and high emissions growth, but the return to emissions growth in 2010 suggests the opportunity was not exploited."

Co-author Dr Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project, adds, "The global financial crisis has helped developed countries meet their production emission commitments as promised in the Kyoto Protocol and Copenhagen Accord, but its impact has been short-lived and pre-existing challenges remain."

The figures from a team of international researchers, just published in the Nature Climate Change journal, start from 1990, the year the Kyoto Protocol takes as its reference point.

In 2010, emissions from fossil fuel burning, production of cement, forest clearance and other factors, reached a record 10 billion tonnes. Half stayed in the atmosphere, pushing carbon concentration to 389.6 parts per million. The rest was absorbed by the ocean and land reservoirs.

This increase came from rich and emerging economies. Heading the list was China, America, the EU, the Russian Federation and India. Emissions from goods and services from emerging countries, sold to the West, have grown from 2.5% to 16% of the total of rich countries during the 20 years.

In Britain, fossil fuel emissions rose 3.8% last year, 14% below 1990 figures, but when emissions from trade are factored in, emissions were 20% higher than 20 years ago.

An office of the Global Carbon Project is due to be opened next year at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The Natural Environment Research Council is helping with funding. The office will help in the production of the annual carbon emission figures.

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Topics: Carbon Dioxide