During the heart of the recession in 2009, CO2 emissions fell as economic activity slowed. Now that the world is seeing modest signs at recovery, the pace of economic activity has picked up and so have the CO2 emissions. According to a new study from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, the planet may reach record levels of emissions by the end of the year.
The study also involved the University of East Anglia and other international institutions, and is part of the Global Carbon Project, which annually updates CO2 greenhouse gas emissions totals. The paper, authored by Professor Pierre Friedlingstein and others, was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
They found that emissions from the burning of fossil fuels was 1.3 percent lower in 2009 than the previous year, which is actually less than half the drop that was predicted. This is because, while economies in developed Western countries were down, activity in the developing world was rising.
The United Kingdom, for example, had 8.6 percent lower emissions
in 2009 than in 2008. Similar numbers can be applied to USA, Japan, France, Germany, et al. However, these reductions were offset by steady growth in countries like China, which increased emissions by eight percent.
According to Friedlingstein, “The 2009 drop in CO2 emissions is less than half that anticipated a year ago. This is because the drop in world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was less than anticipated and the carbon intensity of world GDP, which is the amount of CO2 released per unit of GDP, improved by only 0.7 per cent in 2009 — well below its long-term average of 1.7% per year.”
Carbon intensity is improved by higher productivity rates which includes better technology or more efficient ways of doing things. The improvement in carbon intensity was so low because the emissions increases came from developing regions. These countries already have a high carbon intensity, and also rely heavily on dirty fossil fuels like coal.
The study predicts an emissions increase of more than three percent in 2010, a growth rate similar to those found between 2000 and 2008. On the good side, the study found that CO2 emissions from deforestation decreased by more than 25 percent since 2000 compared to the previous decade. This is due to the expansion of forests at the temperate latitudes which partially offset forest loss in the tropics.
Click here for more information on the Global Carbon Project.
Article by David A. Gabel, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.