CO2 emissions continued to grow in 2012, at a dangerous rate that makes a catastrophic temperature rise of more than 2°C nearly inevitable. Over the past year CO2 emissions rose 2.6% and the average growth rate from 2000 to 2012 is a disastrous 3.1% per year. A level emissions rate, at this point, would lead to a rise of more than 2°C by 2100. At the present growth rate, which is an exponential growth rate of about 2.2% per year for the period 1990-2012 by my calculation, the world is on track for a calamitous rise of 4°C to 6.1°C.
A report released today by the Global Carbon Project delivered the disquieting details.
CO2 emissions from fossil fuels burning and cement production increased by 3% in 2011, with a total of 9.5±0.5 PgC emitted to the atmosphere (34.7 billion tonnes of CO2). These emissions were the highest in human history and 54% higher than in 1990 (the Kyoto Protocol reference year). In 2011, coal burning was responsible for 43% of the total emissions, oil 34%, gas 18%, and cement 5%.
CO2 emissions from fossil fuels burning and cement production are projected to increase by 2.6% in 2012, to a record high of 9.7±0.5 PgC (35.6 billion tonnes of CO2).
The biggest contributors to global emissions in 2011 were China (2.5 PgC, 28%), the United States (1.5 PgC, 6%), the European Union (EU27; 1.0 PgC, 11%), and India (0.6 PgC, 7%). Contributions to global emissions growth in 2011 were largest from China (0.226 PgC above 2010 levels, 9.9% growth) and India (0.043 PgC, 7.5%). Emissions from USA were down by 0.028 (-1.8%) and EU27 down by 0.029 PgC (-2.8%).
Developing nations accounted for 60 % of all emissions in 2011. Average per capita emissions of developed countries (Annex B) were 3.0tC/person, several times larger than those of developing countries (non-Annex B) which were 0.9tC/person. China's per capita emissions were 1.8 tC/person and are now close to the average of 2.0 in the EU-27. India's per capita emissions were much below at 0.5 tC/person.
China, already the world's largest CO2 emitter, had 80% of global emissions growth in 2011. Growth in China's coal burning accounted for the rapid emissions increase. Small drops in emissions in the United States and Europe did little to slow spiraling emissions growth. Our fate is out of our control unless we can get a global agreement including China to cut emissions growth.
The world is approaching the point where negative emissions will be needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. Urgent action is needed at Doha, but world leaders seem utterly unaware of the seriousness of the situation. Note that the predictions of 4°C to 6°C do not include potentially catastrophic feedback loops such as rapid methane release from permafrost and the Siberian shelf. The models may be underestimating the severity of the situation.