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Climate Change

2013 CO2 Emissions Will Set Record High

Originally published on Climate Progress.
By Ari Phillips

coal pollution regulations utility company ceo

Coal power plant via Shutterstock

Global emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels are set to rise again in 2013, reaching a record high of 36 billion tons. According to a report released Monday by the Global Carbon Project, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production increased by 2.1 percent in 2012, with a total of nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere, 60 percent above 1990 emissions. Emissions are projected to increase by a further 2.1 percent in 2013.

The projected 2.1 percent rise over 2012 figures “is not a surprise at all,” Roisin Moriarty, a research scientist with the Global Carbon Project at the University of East Anglia’s Tyndall Center for Climate Research, told NBC News. In fact, “it is a little lower than the value we predicted last year — 2.6 percent.”

Moriarty attributed the slowdown almost entirely to slower economic growth in China, saying it’s nothing to celebrate.

According to a statement released with the study, most emissions are from coal (43 percent), then oil (33 percent), gas (18 percent), cement (5.3 percent) and gas flaring (0.6 percent). The growth in coal in 2012 accounted for 54 percent of the growth in fossil fuel emissions.

The U.S. reduced emissions by 3.7 percent in 2012, while the E.U. made cuts of 1.3 percent. India and China are leading the way on emissions growth, increasing emissions by 7.7 percent and 5.9 percent respectively.

CO2 emissions from deforestation and other land-use change added eight percent to the emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Cumulative emissions of CO2 since 1870 are set to reach 2015 billion tons in 2013, with 70 percent caused by burning fossil fuels and 30 percent from deforestation and other land-use changes, according to the study.

In a statement, Dr. Pierre Friedlingstein from the University of Exeter said, “We have exhausted about 70 percent of the cumulative emissions that keep global climate change likely below two degrees. In terms of CO2 emissions, we are following the highest climate change scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in September.”

The highest climate change scenario sets the world on track for catastrophic warming of 3.2-5.4C (5.8-9.7F) by 2100.

Dr. Michael Raupach at CSIRO and an author on the report told The Conversation that the findings are “absolutely frightening.”

Raupach estimated that we have 30 years before the entire world has to stop emitting carbon “cold turkey.”

“If we want to meet the target it will mean rapid decreases from now of several percent per year until we get down to one third of current emissions in 30 years time. Then we’ve still got some of our quota left to use for carbon emissions we can’t avoid,” he said.


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