The new Global Carbon Budget’s out. The numbers, compiled by the Australia-based Global Carbon Project, an international consortium of scientists that tracks emissions, show that despite an increase in the international community’s efforts to combat pollution, the growth rate of the emissions continued to speed up. The recalculations indicate that atmospheric CO2 concentration was 383 parts per million (ppm) in 2007. That means that our emissions have grown four times faster since 2000 than during the previous decade.
Emissions from the combustion of fossil fuel and land use change reached 10 billion tones of carbon in 2007. Natural CO2 sinks are growing but slower than the atmospheric CO2 growth, which has been increasing at 2 ppm since 2000 or 33% faster than the previous 20 years.
Emissions growth for 2000-2007 was above even the most fossil fuel intensive scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The executive director of the Global Carbon Project, Dr. Pep Canadell, said that the new update shows the acceleration of both CO2 emissions and atmospheric accumulation are unprecedented. “[They're] most astonishing during a decade of intense international developments to address climate change,” Canadell said.
He told a UK newspaper that the credit crisis would likely slow the emissions growth. “There is no doubt that the economic downturn will have an influence. But unless the big players, China, India, Russia and Japan, suffer as much as the United States is suffering, we’ll see a small decline only.”
A decrease in the world’s forest cover is believed to be responsible for 1.5 billion tons of emissions to the atmosphere outstripping what was gained through new plantings. The latest estimates indicate unexpected changes in the patterns of emissions compared to those scientists expected when drafting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. Although the oceans carbon uptake was expected to rise with the higher atmospheric concentration of CO2, in 2007 it was reduced by a net 10 million tons.
Natural land and ocean CO2 sinks, which have removed 54% (or 4.8 billion tons per year) of all CO2 emitted from human activities during the period 2000-2007, are now 3% less efficient than in the years 1959-2000. While the size of these sinks continues to grow in response to greater concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, they are losing efficiency as feedbacks between the carbon cycle and climate increase.
More than half of global emissions are now from the so-called ‚Äòdeveloping countries’. China is the world’s biggest pollutor, then the US and then Russia. “This latest information on rising carbon dioxide emissions is a big wake-up call to industry, business and politicians,” said Professor Matthew England, joint director of the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre.
“What’s happening is the major developed countries’ plans are converging for emissions growth that will stop and be able to come down significantly,” said James L. Connaughton, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality. He was quoted by the Washington Post as adding “But that’s being completely overtaken now by the increasing greenhouse gas emissions in developing counties. It underscores the need for a broader and more aggressive effort by the major economies to come together.”
In an independent development, the Union of Concerned Scientists called on members of the public to submit personal stories and photo’s about global warming for a book it is publishing online with Penguin Classic next year. The book will be entitled Thoreau’s Legacy: American Stories about Global Warming. The competition ends on November 15, 2008 and the submission is open to anyone in the US. A professional panel of judges will pick the essay/photography winners.