Global emissions grew faster than ever in 2010: study

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, December 5, 2011 13:38 EDT
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Cars on a smog-laden highway. Photo: iStock.
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Global carbon emissions, seen as the driver for climate change, grew at the fastest rate in recorded history in 2010, according to a study published Monday.

Scientists from the U.S., Europe and India teamed up with the Global Carbon Project to measure emissions around the world, publishing the study in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

Examining volumes of data, they found that world-wide emissions grew more in 2010 than any year prior to the onset of the industrial revolution, jumping 5.9 percent as the global economy revved back up after a three-year slump. Overall, human activity was responsible for releasing 9.14 billion tons of carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere in 2010, whereas in 2009 global emissions dropped 1.4 percent due to declining economic activity.

The leading cause of emission growth, scientists found, was an increasing reliance on coal for electricity generation.

The report was published as delegates from all over the world entered a crucial phase of negotiating a global treaty on emissions, which seemed less likely to pass as talks entered their second week.

The key stumbling blocks to an agreement thus far have been China and the U.S., the world’s two greatest polluters.

Chinese delegates have said they are open to a treaty that initiates legally binding emissions standards, but in back-room talks they have resisted any hard future standards for emission limits. The U.S., similarly, has resisted capping emissions unless all other nations are treated equally under the potential treaty’s legal framework.

The United States is the second worst offender when it comes to greenhouse emissions, with China being the first. The U.S., however, has a much higher emissions-per-capita rate: a painful fact that led a key Chinese official to recently declare that if Chinese emissions were to grow as high per person as the U.S., it would be a “disaster for the world.”

Despite near unanimous scientific consensus on the reality of human-driven climate change, Americans remain divided on the issue. A Gallup poll found in November that just 53 percent of Americans see climate change as a very or somewhat serious threat, down 10 percent from two years earlier.

Disclosure: Raw Story Media, Inc. is a carbon-neutral business that offsets emissions from all staff and reader activities.

With AFP.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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