GHG Emissions See Biggest Rise Ever, Will Linger for Decades
Biggest jump ever seen in global warming gases
The Associated Press, Nov. 4, 2011
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record, the U.S. Department of Energy calculated, a sign of how feeble the world's efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.
The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.
"The more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing," said John Reilly, co-director of MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.
The world pumped about 564 million more tons (512 million metric tons) of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009. That's an increase of 6 percent. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries - China, the United States and India, the world's top producers of greenhouse gases.
It is a "monster" increase that is unheard of, said Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate Department of Energy figures in the past.
Extra pollution in China and the U.S. account for more than half the increase in emissions last year, Marland said.
"It's a big jump," said Tom Boden, director of the Energy Department's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Lab. "From an emissions standpoint, the global financial crisis seems to be over."
Boden said that in 2010 people were traveling, and manufacturing was back up worldwide, spurring the use of fossil fuels, the chief contributor of man-made climate change.
India and China are huge users of coal. Burning coal is the biggest carbon source worldwide and emissions from that jumped nearly 8 percent in 2010.
"The good news is that these economies are growing rapidly so everyone ought to be for that, right?" Reilly said Thursday. "Broader economic improvements in poor countries has been bringing living improvements to people. Doing it with increasing reliance on coal is imperiling the world."
In 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its last large report on global warming, it used different scenarios for carbon dioxide pollution and said the rate of warming would be based on the rate of pollution. Boden said the latest figures put global emissions higher than the worst case projections from the climate panel. Those forecast global temperatures rising between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century with the best estimate at 7.5 degrees.
Even though global warming skeptics have attacked the climate change panel as being too alarmist, scientists have generally found their predictions too conservative, Reilly said. He said his university worked on emissions scenarios, their likelihood, and what would happen. The IPCC's worst case scenario was only about in the middle of what MIT calculated are likely scenarios.
Chris Field of Stanford University, head of one of the IPCC's working groups, said the panel's emissions scenarios are intended to be more accurate in the long term and are less so in earlier years. He said the question now among scientists is whether the future is the panel's worst case scenario "or something more extreme."
"Really dismaying," Granger Morgan, head of the engineering and public policy department at Carnegie Mellon University, said of the new figures. "We are building up a horrible legacy for our children and grandchildren."
But Reilly and University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver found something good in recent emissions figures. The developed countries that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas limiting treaty have reduced their emissions overall since then and have achieved their goals of cutting emissions to about 8 percent below 1990 levels. The U.S. did not ratify the agreement.
In 1990, developed countries produced about 60 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, now it's probably less than 50 percent, Reilly said.
"We really need to get the developing world because if we don't, the problem is going to be running away from us," Weaver said. "And the problem is pretty close from running away from us."
Record high greenhouse gases to linger for decades
Reuters, Nov. 21, 2011
GENEVA - Record high levels of greenhouse gases causing climate change will linger in the atmosphere for decades to come, even if the world manages to stop emissions output today, the United Nations' weather agency said on Monday.
Carbon dioxide accounted for 80 percent of the increase and human activities, such as the use of fossil fuels and agriculture, were the major causes of the emissions rise, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
"The atmospheric burden of greenhouse gases due to human activities has yet again reached record levels since pre-industrial time," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.
"Even if we managed to halt our greenhouse gas emissions today, and this is far from the case, they would continue to linger in the atmosphere for decades to come and so continue to affect the delicate balance of our living planet and our climate," he said.
The report adds to a number of warnings that time is running out to act on climate change and prevent worsening extreme weather as the Earth's temperature rises.
BP data earlier this year showed global carbon dioxide emissions grew at their fastest rate since 1969 last year, as countries rebounded from economic recession.
In 2010, countries agreed in Cancun, Mexico, that deep emissions cuts were needed to hold an increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a threshold beyond which scientists say risks even more extreme weather, crop failure and major floods.
Delegates from nearly 200 countries will meet in South Africa next week for a U.N. summit but only modest steps toward a broader climate deal are seen as likely.
The WMO said greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere increased by 1.4 percent last year from 2009 and 29 percent since 1990.
The WMO measured the overall amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, based on monitoring stations in more than 50 countries, including natural emissions and absorption processes - so-called sources and sinks - as well as emissions caused by human activity.
Three of the most dangerous gases, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, were more prevalent in the atmosphere in 2010 than at any time since the industrial revolution.
Between 2009 and 2010, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increased by 2.3 parts per million, higher than the average for both the 1990s (1.5 parts per million) and the past decade (2.0 parts per million), the report said.
The second biggest greenhouse gas, methane, has been growing in the past five years after leveling off between 2000 and 2006, for reasons that are not fully understood.
The third biggest greenhouse gas is nitrous oxide, which can trap almost 300 times as much heat as carbon dioxide. Its main human source is the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers, which the report said had "profoundly affected the global nitrogen cycle."
The impact of fertilizer use is so marked that more nitrous oxide is detected in the northern hemisphere, where more fertilizer is used, than in the south.
The WMO data showed no pause in the growth of greenhouse gases, and more work needs to be done to help understand which policies would have the most effect, the report's authors said.
So far, the clearest discernable impact of policies was a decrease in chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which were banned because they caused depletion of the ozone layer.
But hydrofluorocarbons, which have replaced CFCs, are also potent greenhouse gases and their abundance in the atmosphere, while still small, is rising at a rapid rate.