US government study shows carbon emissions are at all-time high

– Matt Mente, News Editor

The U.S. Department of Energy has released the final numbers on global carbon emissions in 2010, and with a massive increase they are the worst numbers on record. It has been discovered that during 2010 there was a six percent increase in global carbon dioxide emissions. This means an increase of about 564 million tonnes of carbon over 2009 for a total annual output of 36.4 billion tonnes of carbon in 2010.

This increase was greater than what environmental agencies predicted in worst case scenarios just four years ago.

Even though global warming sceptics have attacked the climate change panel as being too alarmist, scientists have generally found their predictions too conservative, said John Reilly, co-director of MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

He said his university worked on emissions scenarios, their likelihood, and what would happen. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) worst case scenario was only about in the middle of what MIT calculated are likely scenarios.

The bulk of the additional pollution came from the three largest sources of carbon emissions in the world, China, India, and the U.S. all of which saw increases in carbon output in 2010.

On the bright side countries which signed the Kyoto protocol in 1997, agreeing to cut their emissions to 5.7 per cent less than what they were in 1990, seem to be on track. Russia and the European Union have both reduced emissions. Unfortunately the U.S. has refused to sign the protocol and Canada has largely ignored its commitments.

In many ways this increase was also a normalisation to a certain degree. During the recession in 2008 and 2009 emissions were lower. When the economy started to stabilize and improve emissions increased along with it as people began to travel more and manufacturing ramped up.

This trend is reflected to a certain degree in developing countries which tend to produce far more pollution than developed countries. A large part of this is due to a heavy reliance on burning coal, particularly in China.

“Broader economic improvements in poor countries has been bringing living improvements to people. Doing it with increasing reliance on coal is imperilling the world.” stated Reilly.

The last major prediction on global warming from the IPCC came in 2007 at that time they based their predictions on numerous scenarios deciding that global warming would follow rates of pollution. With 2010 seeing an increase in pollution greater than their worst case scenario adjustments may be necessary but their prediction for global temperature increase currently stands at between one and six degrees with the best guess at around four degrees by the end of the century.

Carbon Dioxide emissions are a problem because along with other greenhouse gasses they contribute to global warming. This happens when the carbon breaks down the ozone layer allowing a greater amount of the suns radiation into the atmosphere, the carbon then traps that energy within the atmosphere contributing to an overall increase in global temperatures.

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