Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Global CO2 emissions hit a record-high in 2011 and are fast approaching a tipping point. Rising fossil fuel consumption in China, India and other rapidly industrializing countries more than offset declines in OECD countries, including in the U.S., where CO2 emissions have declined the most of any country or region.

Air Quality

Global CO2 Emissions Reach Record-High, Driven by Fossil Fuel Use in Rapidly Industrializing Nations

Global CO2 emissions hit a record-high in 2011 and are fast approaching a tipping point. Rising fossil fuel consumption in China, India and other rapidly industrializing countries more than offset declines in OECD countries, including in the U.S., where CO2 emissions have declined the most of any country or region.

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions continue to rise despite best efforts to date to curtail them. CO2 emissions reached a record-high 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2011, according to preliminary estimates from the International Energy Agency, a 1 Gt, 3.2% year-over-year increase.

Increasing fossil fuel use, driven primarily by growing demand in rapidly industrializing countries such as China and India is fueling the rise. Coal accounted for 45% of total energy-related CO2 emissions worldwide last year, followed by oil at 35% and natural gas accounting for 20%, the IEA reported.

CO2 Emissions: Reaching a Tipping Point

At 31.6 Gt per year and rising, global CO2 emissions are just 1% below and fast approaching the 2017 32.6 Gt level the IEA has determined is consistent with a 50% chance of limiting an average global temperature increase to 2°C. That, according to climate scientists’ best estimates, is a critical level marking a climate change tipping point.

The IEA World Energy Outlook 2011‘s 450 Scenario notes that a decoupling of CO2 emissions and global GDP growth is taking place. Nonetheless, the trend is discouraging, with the rate of growth of CO2 emissions exceeding that of GDP in 2011.

More needs to be done and done faster if humanity is to avoid a worst-case climate change scenario, according to the IEA, which, along with a renewed push by environmental organizations and public interest groups is calling on the public to pressure their governments to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.

CO2 emissions in industrialized OECD countries decreased by 0.6% in 2011, but that wasn’t nearly enough to offset the 6.1% increase in other countries. China contributed the most to 2011’s rise in CO2 emissions, which increased 720 million metric tons (Mt), or 9.3%. A higher rate of coal consumption was the primary culprit.

China, India Move Up the Ranks of World’s Largest CO2 Emitters

The IEA’s chief economist tried to focus on the positive when assessing China’s CO2 emissions. “What China has done over such a short period of time to improve energy efficiency and deploy clean energy is already paying major dividends to the global environment,” commented IEA chief economist Dr. Faith Birol. “China’s carbon intensity — the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of GDP — fell by 15% between 2005 and 2011. Had these gains not been made, China’s CO2 emissions in 2011 would have been higher by 1.5 Gt.”

India’s now climbing rapidly up the ranks of the world’s largest CO2 emitters. India’s CO2 emissions rose by 140 million metric tons, or 8.7%, surpassing Russia as the world’s fourth largest emitter of CO2, behind China, the U.S., and the E.U.

On a per capita basis CO2 emissions in China and India still average just 63% and 15% of their OECD counterparts, however, the IEA notes.

U.S. 2011 CO2 emissions decreased 92 million metric tons, or 1.7%, primarily due to electric utilities’ ongoing switch from coal to natural gas-powered generation. An exceptionally mild winter also contributed to the decline.

Looking out over the longer term, U.S. CO2 emissions have fallen by 430 Mt, or 1.7%, since 2006, the largest reduction of all countries or regions. Lower oil use in transportation and the economic downturn also contributed significantly to the decline, with stricter fuel efficiency standards, efficiency improvements and less driving as measured by vehicle miles traveled.

European Union (E.U.) CO2 emissions also decreased in 2011. They dropped 92 Mt, or 1.9%, as the onset of recession reduced industrial production. An unusually warm winter also contributed to the decrease, reducing space heating needs.

With its nuclear energy infrastructure battered and now shuttered, Japan’s CO2 emissions increased by 28 Mt, or 2.4%, as fossil fuel use has increased in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Written By

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.


You May Also Like

Clean Power

When I started writing on CleanTechnica in 2009, we were often writing about solar power. It was a hot, fast-growing industry. It was exploding...


Our methane emissions from all the waste material we leave lying around the place is 15%+ as big a problem as the carbon dioxide...


Stratas without charging have units that sell for a bit less than stratas that have it


OEMs that try to roll bespoke engineered solutions, niche chemistries, or custom designed battery assemblies are making the wrong strategic decisions.

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.