2010 Carbon Dioxide Output Shows Biggest Jump Ever
Global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning jumped by the largest amount on record last year, upending the notion that the brief decline during the recession might persist through the recovery.
Emissions rose 5.9 percent in 2010, according to an analysis released Sunday by the Global Carbon Project, an international collaboration of scientists tracking the numbers. Scientists with the group said the increase, a half-billion extra tons of carbon pumped into the air, was almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution, and the largest percentage increase since 2003.
The increase solidified a trend of ever-rising emissions that scientists fear will make it difficult, if not impossible, to forestall severe climate change in coming decades.
The researchers said the high growth rate reflected a bounce-back from the 1.4 percent drop in emissions in 2009, the year the recession had its biggest impact.
They do not expect the extraordinary growth to persist, but do expect emissions to return to something closer to the 3 percent yearly growth of the last decade, still a worrisome figure that signifies little progress in limiting greenhouse gases. The growth rate in the 1990s was closer to 1 percent yearly.
The combustion of coal represented more than half of the growth in emissions, the report found.
In the United States, emissions dropped by a remarkable 7 percent in the recession year of 2009, but rose by just over 4 percent last year, the new analysis shows. This country is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, pumping 1.5 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere last year.
The United States was surpassed several years ago by China, where emissions grew 10.4 percent in 2010, with that country injecting 2.2 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide emissions are usually measured by the weight of carbon they contain.
The new figures come as delegates from 191 countries meet in Durban, South Africa, for yet another negotiating session in a global control effort that has been going on, with minimal success, for the better part of two decades.