Despite recession carbon emissions keep rising to new records

We knew CO2 emissions reached a new record high in 2010, at 30.6 gigatonnes.

world CO2 emissionsNow a new study by CICERO, the Tyndall Centre and other institutes reconfirms the strong rebound after the 2008 global financial crisis – and predicts that despite the current recession emissions will keep rising to new records in 2011, sticking to an average annual growth of around 3.1 percent.

In other words: that (slight) decoupling of GDP and emissions – the carbon intensity per dollar economic activity – has a downside too. If really we’d like to see carbon emissions drop, in the end that would be down to simply burning fossil fuels somewhere below the maximum capacity we’ve installed.

According to the new research, published yesterday in Nature Climate Change, there is a strong upward trend in carbon emissions.

Only the financial crisis led to a drop (of 1.4 percent) in 2009 – to the atmosphere (as CO2 works cumulatively) that’s no more than 4 days respite – which was then overcompensated by an above average emissions jump in 2010 of 5.9 percent.

For the year 2011 the researchers expect a further increase around 3.1 percent, which is the average annual fossil fuel carbon emission rise between 2000 and 2010.

The Tyndall contributors offer a way to quantify the amount of emission the West has outsourced to emerging economies – the share of emissions from the trade of goods and services produced in emerging economies but consumed in the West compared to the domestic emissions in the West. In 20 years’ time this share has increased from 2.5 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 201o.

China, the United States and India now form the top three of major emitters.

Including non-fossil fuel sources like deforestation and cement production the global carbon emissions [so other figure than CO2!] have now surpassed the 10 billion tonnes annually.

If nothing drastically changes we can expect an elevation of the IPCC emissions scenarios in their new report, scheduled for 2013 – and say goodbye to the 450 Scenario somewhere by that same date. So much for ‘official targets’.

© Rolf Schuttenhelm |

Comments are closed.