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Annual carbon budget: We’re all doomed

Cross posted from The Great Beyond

industrial air pollution.jpgThe latest global carbon budget numbers are just out, and they make interesting, if slightly depressing, reading. (Global Carbon Project site – will be updated at midnight)

Most striking is that, despite years of effort, carbon dioxide emissions are increasing at an alarming rate of 3.5% a year– faster than the 2.7% predicted by the IPCC in their worst case scenario, and miles ahead of the 0.9% annual rise in the 1990s. Worst still, current measures have been based on a middle-ground IPCC scenario. Pep Candell from the Global Carbon Budget told me that this was “astonishing”.

For the first time, we have hit 10 billion tonnes of carbon emitted annually.

The other thing to note is that China and India are galumphing their way up the table of biggest carbon dioxide emitters. Ten years ago the top four were: USA, China, Russia, Japan. Today that list reads: China, USA, Russia, India – and I am assured by Candell that next year India will have jumped into third place.

This is a worry – when the Kyoto Protocol was first talked about, the countries of the developing developed world were overwhelmingly the highest emitters of CO2. But in the meantime, whilst decisions were made, details argued out and paperwork signed, the developing world has taken pole position.

China has, since 2002, jumped from being responsible for 14% of the global carbon dioxide emissions, to 21%. At the same time the US has been hovering at around 20%.

Slightly good news is that our natural saviours – the oceans, forests and soil, are still doing a sterling job. In 1959, natural sinks removed just over 50% of the carbon dioxide man emitted. And today, they do the same – gobble up just over half. The efficiency of these natural sinks has dropped by about 5% in the intervening years, which isn’t ideal, but means that the overall news is not disastrous.

Response to the news – which will be officially announced tomorrow – from the media is widespread. It’s a ‘reality check’ according to the Daily Green; Zee News runs with the rise of India in the emission charts; while other reports tell it like it is: carbon dioxide emissions still rising.

Katharine Sanderson

Comments

  1. Report this comment

    DrCarbon said:

    Typo:

    This is a worry – when the Kyoto Protocol was first talked about, the countries of the develop^ed^ world were overwhelmingly the highest emitters of CO2.

  2. Report this comment

    Demesure said:

    “In 1959, natural sinks removed just over 50% of the carbon dioxide man emitted. And today, they do the same – gobble up just over half. The efficiency of these natural sinks has dropped by about 5% in the intervening years”

    Something doesn’t fit together. If in 1959, natural sinks removed 50% of carbon emissions just like now while emissions have been multiplied by 3 to 4 in the interval, that means the sink efficiency has increased, greatly increased, not dropped.

    As long as 1/3 of all emissions go unaccounted (see the infamous “carbon missing sink”), there is no basis to state as precise numbers as 5% which seems to be plucked out of the air.

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    Milan Lapin said:

    There must be stressed the fact that China has 5-times more inhabitants than the USA and India 3-times more. The emissions must be calculated predominantly as per-capita values and then (only as additional information) in absolute total amounts. Otherwise it would be not possible to compare such countries as Luxembourg and Germany.

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