Global carbon dioxide emissions from industry rose about 3 percent in a weak global economy this year, a study released yesterday showed, adding fresh urgency to efforts to control planet-warming gases at UN climate talks in South Africa.
The study by the Global Carbon Project, an annual report card on mankind’s carbon dioxide pollution, says a slowdown in emissions during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis was a mere speed bump and the gain this year followed a 6 percent surge last year.
“The global financial crisis was an opportunity to move the global economy away from a high-emissions trajectory. Our results provide no indication of this happening,” the authors say in the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Delegates from nearly 200 nations attending major talks in South Africa are struggling to make progress toward tougher steps to curb soaring carbon pollution.
A small number of big developing nations were fueling the emissions growth, the study said, even though the global financial crisis spawned long-term green stimulus plans by China, South Korea, the US and others to attempt to curtail carbon emissions output.
In the short-term, an improvement in the carbon intensity of economies, a measure of carbon emissions per unit of GDP, has stalled, according to the study, which analyzed data from the US government, the UN and BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy.
Global emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production grew 5.9 percent last year, compared with a 1.4 percent drop the year before, the data showed.
In both years, emissions growth has been dominated by emerging economies, with China’s emissions jumping 10.4 percent last year, India 9.4 percent, Brazil 11.6 percent and South Korea 9.2 percent.
Emissions last year also grew in some big developed nations in absolute terms, rising 4.1 percent in the US and 5.8 percent for the Russian Federation. Emissions from China, the world’s top carbon dioxide polluter, doubled between 2002 and last year, the data showed.
Globally, carbon emissions last year from coal totaled 41 percent, oil 34 percent, with gas and cement production comprising the rest.
The authors expressed concern over the reversal of a long-term trend toward improving the carbon intensity of economies between 1970 and 2000. Improvement in carbon intensity stalled in 2009 and decreased slightly last year.
“The return to growth after the [global financial crisis] has only continued the deterioration in the fossil fuel carbon intensity trend since 2000,” the study’s authors said.
They also pointed to the acceleration of consumption-based emissions of domestic goods and services, but excluding emissions from exports. In 2009 and last year, there were large drops in consumption-based emissions in developed nations.
In developing countries, the reverse occurred and 2009 marked the first time that developing countries had higher consumption-based emissions than developed countries, the authors said.
Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project, said from Canberra, Australia, that economic stimulus packages primed the rapid rebound in carbon emissions.
“The economic stimulus packages were very effective from an emissions point of view to get back to very quickly those same levels of emissions from production of consumption,” Canadell said.