• China’s emissions glimpsing the peak


    China recently announced its intention to peak its carbon-dioxide emissions. How soon could the emissions peak and at what absolute value? Libo Wu explores.
  • The greening of the Southern Hemisphere


    The 2010-2011 La Niña weather event brought lush vegetation to vast semi-arid regions in the Southern Hemisphere and altered the delicate balance of the global carbon sinks. Owen Gaffney explores how La Niña might change in the future and what that might imply.
Published: December 12, 2012

Global emissions setting course for 5°C warming by 2100

News |
In its annual analysis of global carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the Global Carbon Project (GCP) finds that unprecedented global mitigation is required to avoid dangerous climate change.
According to the study, carbon dioxide emissions rose 3% in 2011 to 34.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and are expected to increase a further 2.6% by the end of 2012. From 2000 to 2011, emissions have grown at an average of 3.1% per year. If this emission growth continues, the global mean temperature is likely to by more than 5°C in 2100.
Global carbon dioxide emissions continue to track the high end of a range of emission scenarios, expanding the gap between current emission trends and the emission pathway required to keep the global-average temperature increase below 2°C.

It is now likely that in the longer term there will be a reliance on technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere such as carbon capture and storage connected to bioenergy.

“We are effectively relying on technologies that are yet to be developed and this leads to persistent uncertainties on how much they can contribute to future mitigation” said lead author of the study Glen Peters of CICERO, a climate research institute in Norway.

The continued growth in carbon dioxide emissions reconfirms the temporary effect of the global financial crisis on emissions and may lock us into a high emissions pathway.

“There is considerable inertia in technical, social, and political systems, and even if an aggressive global agreement is reached at the negotiating table in Doha, it may take more than a decade before emissions begin to decrease”, said co-author Robbie Andrew of CICERO.

However, previous energy transitions in Belgium, Denmark, France, Sweden, and the UK have led to emission reductions as high as 5% per year over decade-long periods even without climate policy.

“Scaling up similar energy transitions across more countries, can kick-start global mitigation with negligible costs. To deepen and sustain these energy transitions in a broad range of countries requires aggressive policy drivers” said Peters.

“The continued economic troubles in the developed world have led to reduced emissions, but this is more than compensated by strong emissions growth in fast-growing economies such as China”, said Peters.

The study shows that global carbon emissions in 2011 were 54% above 1990 levels. Developed countries have largely stabilised their emissions below 1990 levels and most of the growth in global carbon dioxide emissions occurs in emerging economies.

Chinese emissions grew 10% in 2011, or over 800 million tonnes carbon¬ dioxide which is as much as Germany emits in one year. China is emitting as much as the European Union on a per capita basis, about 36% higher than the global average per capita emissions.

“Strong emissions growth in some developing countries continually changes the global distribution of emissions, and arguments on equity that existed in 1990 no longer apply in 2012”, said Peters.

In 1990 developing countries accounting for 35% percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, but in 2011 this was 58%.

“Each year of increased emissions makes a two degree target harder to achieve. The only feasible way to keep below two degrees is for global reductions in emissions and this can only happen if the top emitters in the developed and developing world have deep and sustained mitigation”, said Peters.

"I am worried that the risks of dangerous climate change are too high on our current emissions trajectory," said co-author Prof Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and Professor at the University of East Anglia.

"We must reverse the trends in emissions before 2020, countries have done it in the past and we can do it worldwide. Everyone has a role."

This research is based on the release of an extensive new dataset by the Global Carbon Project, published simultaneously in Nature Climate Change and Earth System Science Data Discussions.

The Global Carbon Project is sponsored by IGBP.

The challenge to keep global warming below two degrees, by G. Peters, R. Andrew, T. Boden, J. Canadell, P. Ciais, C. Le Quéré, G. Marland, M. Raupach, C. Wilson is published online by Nature Climate Change.

http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1783.html

The Global Carbon Budget 1959–2011” by C. Le Quéré, R. Andres, T. Boden, T. Conway, R. Houghton, J. House, G. Marland, G. Peters, G. van der Werf, A. Ahlström, R. Andrew,  L. Bopp, J. Canadell, P. Ciais, S. Doney, P. Friedlingstein, C. Huntingford, A. Jain, C. Jourdain, E. Kato, R. Keeling, K. Goldewijk, S. Levis, P. Levy, M. Lomas, B. Poulter, M. Raupach, J. Schwinger, S. Sitch, B. Stocker, N. Viovy, S. Zaehle and N. Zeng, is published by Earth System Science Data Discussions,(from 2 Dec, 1800GMT). DOI: 10.5194/essdd-5-1107-2012. The paper is freely available.

Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2 Emissions in Trends” by T. Boden, G. Marland, R. Andres is available from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC). DOI: 10.3334/CDIAC/GCP_V2012. The data is freely available.

Global Carbon Project “Carbon Budget 2012 Presentation”.

Share this page
Tell a friend (opens in new window)
Follow us
IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index
  • Jun 24 - Jul 2, 2015

    8th World Environmental Education Congress: Planet and People - How can they develop together


    Who should come? The congress is an international meeting point for everyone working with education for environment and sustainable development or which have an interest in the field. WEEC 2015 is as such an opportunity to learn more about the latest in environmental and sustainability education, to discuss with people from all over the world, to share your own work and to learn from others. We are expecting participants from a wide range of countries. Are you maybe a researcher, educator, student, decision-maker, NGO or media working with or having an interest in education for environment and sustainable development, or are you just curious? Welcome!Are you interested in sharing your research or sharing good examples regarding education for environment and sustainable development? Perhaps you work with an interesting education model which you would like to share through for example a workshop? In that case we recommend you to submit an abstract by the 19 of December, 2014. The registration for the congress opens on the 15 of November, 2014.Examples of participants:
    • Researchers and educators at universities
    • Teachers teaching all ages
    • Students
    • Folk high-schools
    • Local, regional and national government agencies, municipalities
    • Officials from international organizations
    • NGOs
    • Managers of parks and protected areas
    • Private companies who are interested in environmental and sustainability issues and in education
    • Media/press
    The congress will discuss the role and importance of education for environment and sustainability at all levels ; both in higher education and for lower ages .Two main categories of abstracts can be submitted: academic abstracts and practitioner abstracts. As such, practitioner abstracts could be a description for example of a teaching model regarding environment and sustainability.
  • Aug 23 - Aug 28, 2015

    14th International Swiss Climate Summer School



  • Global Change Magazine No. 83


    This issue features a special section on carbon. You can read about peak greenhouse-gas emissions in China, the mitigation of black carbon emissions and the effect of the 2010-2011 La Niña event on gl...

  • Global Change Magazine No. 82


    This issue features a full-spread infographic on deltas at risk, accompanied by a Q&A with IGBP Chair James Syvitski. You can also read about coastal megacities, the progress in crystallising the Sust...
RECOMMENDED