Global carbon emissions rose again last year by 3.1 percent in 2011 and are predicted to rise again this year by 2.6 percent, according to a study released by the Global Carbon Project in early December during the COP18 international climate talks in Doha, Quatar. The paper, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, indicates that the world is on a path toward catastrophic climate change that will include more droughts, heat waves and severe storms. Researchers say that the internationally agreed-upon target of warming just 2 degrees Celsius is virtually impossible.
Quoted in The Guardian, study co-author Corinne Le Quéré director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Britain and a professor at the University of East Anglia, said, "I am worried that the risks of dangerous climate change are too high on our current emissions trajectory. We need a radical plan."
Total emissions for last year are projected to be more than 35 billion tons, and the bulk of rapid CO2 pollution is coming from China, the world’s largest CO2 polluter. The country’s carbon emissions rose 9.9 percent last year versus 9.4 degrees in 2012. India’s emissions grew 7.5 percent last year, down from 9.4 percent growth in 2010, and emissions in the Europe and the U.S. dropped slightly in 2011. Coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, is growing fastest in developing countries.
According to the study, current emissions growth puts the planet on a fast track to warm between 4C and 6C, while global emissions rise 58% between 1990 and 2012. Researchers focused on emissions from both burning fossil fuels and cement production.
In 1997, most of the world agreed to the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that required countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 5 percent compared to 1990, the baseline year. But CO2 emissions in developing countries including India and China were not limited, and the treaty was never ratified in the U.S.
In an article in The Telegraph, Ed Davey, the U.K.’s energy and climate change secretary, said while he believed scientists were right to be concerned, he insisted climate change could be limited to 2C. He stated, "As things stand, the world is plainly not on track to keep the global temperature increase below two degrees.
Anyone who engages seriously with the science is right to be concerned. "But there is reason to be hopeful. We have seen serious action by many countries, including some of the big emitters. Legislation is moving forward in the world's major economies. And there are important changes in the real economy. Global investment in renewables outstripped fossil fuels for the first time last year. Rising resource scarcity and climate stress means that sustainable, resilient production makes good business sense. Businesses are now setting the agenda for governments."