New Delhi: Global carbon dioxide emissions will rise to a record high of 35.6 billion tonnes this year, says a report in the Nature Climate Change journal.
The findings, based on a mathematical modelling exercise, are significant in the background of ongoing discussions in Doha, Qatar, to apportion obligations among 194 countries to limit carbon dioxide emissions. The talks will end on 7 December.
The study says that any attempt to limit the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050—a tipping point to avoid a catastrophe—should mean that carbon dioxide emissions actually reduce 3% every year, which is virtually impossible given the commitments taken on by countries.
The 2.6% rise in carbon dioxide emissions estimated for 2012 means global emissions from burning fossil fuel are 58% above 1990 levels, the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol. The biggest contributors to global emissions in 2011 were China (28%), the US (16%), the European Union (11%), and India (7%).
Emissions in China and India grew 9.9% and 7.5% in 2011, while those of the US and the EU decreased by 1.8% and 2.8%.
Emissions per person in China of 6.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide were nearly as high as those of the EU (7.3), but below the 17.2 tonnes of carbon used in the US. Emissions in India were much lower at 1.8 tonnes of carbon per person.
“These latest figures come amidst climate talks in Doha,” Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and one of the authors of the study, said in a statement. “But with emissions continuing to grow, it’s as if no one is listening to the entire scientific community.”
In spite of regular meetings by the countries since 1992, there’s only been incremental progress on agreeing on a plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The first phase of the current agreement, or the Kyoto Protocol that encumbered several developed countries to reduce emissions by 5% of 1990 levels, will end this year. Since then, Japan, Australia and Canada have opted out of the Kyoto Protocol and the US—the world’s second biggest polluter—has only committed to reducing emissions to 4% of 1990 levels, without specifying a time frame.
The 2012 rise further opens the gap between real-world emissions and those required to keep global warming below the international target of 2 degrees Celsius.
“I am worried that the risks of dangerous climate change are too high on our current emissions trajectory. We need a radical plan,” Quéré said.
The findings of this report aren’t surprising and only underline the “lack of interest” among the world’s nations to address the threat due to global warming, said an expert who had previously participated in international negotiations.
“This isn’t new, but the tragedy is that developed countries aren’t willing to own up to their share of responsibility,” said Prodipto Ghosh, a former secretary in India’s ministry of environment and forests.