Global carbon emissions rising rapidly: study

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Global carbon emissions rose rapidly in 2007, an annual study says, with developing nations such as China and India now producing more than half of mankind’s output of carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for global warming.

Steam and other emissions are seen coming from funnels at a chemical manufacturing plant in Melbourne September 23, 2008. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

The Global Carbon Project said in its report carbon dioxide emissions from mankind are growing about four times faster since 2000 than during the 1990s, despite efforts by a number of nations to rein in emissions under the Kyoto Protocol.

Emissions from burning fossil fuels was a major contributor to the increase, the authors said in their "Global Carbon Project (2008) Carbon budget and trends 2007" report (here).

India would soon overtake Russia to become the world’s third largest CO2 emitter, it says.

“What we are talking about now for the first time is that the absolute value of all emissions going into the atmosphere every year are bigger coming from less developing countries than the developed world,” said the project’s Australia-based executive director Pep Canadell.

“The other thing we confirm is that China is indeed now the top emitter,” he told Reuters, adding that China alone accounted for 60 percent of all growth in emissions. The United States was the second largest emitter.

The project is supported by the International Council for Science, the umbrella body for all national academies of science.


The rapid rise in emissions meant the world could warm faster than previously predicted, said professor Barry Brook, director of the Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

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He said CO2 concentrations could hit 450 ppm by 2030 instead of 2040 as currently predicted. They are just above 380 ppm at present.

“But whatever the specific date, 450 ppm CO2 commits us to 2 degrees Celsius global warming and all the disastrous consequences this sets in train.”

The Global Carbon Project started in 2001 and examines changes in the earth’s total carbon cycle involving man-made and natural emissions and how carbon is absorbed through sinks, such as oceans and forests.

Canadell says the project analyses data from CO2 samples taken around the globe and national emissions figures sent to the United Nations.

He called the rapid rise in emissions between 2000 and 2007 and accumulation of the gas unprecedented, and pointed out that it occurred during a decade of intense international efforts to fight climate change.

At present, the Kyoto Protocol, the main global treaty to tackle global warming, binds only 37 rich nations to emissions curbs from 2008.

But Kyoto’s first phase ends in 2012 and the pact doesn’t commit developing nations to emissions caps. The United Nations is leading talks to expand Kyoto from 2013 and find a magic formula that brings on board all nations to commit to curbs on emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.


According to the report, atmospheric CO2 concentration rose to 383 parts per million in 2007, or 37 percent above the level at the start of the industrial revolution, and is the highest level during the past 650,000 years.

It said the annual mean growth rate of atmospheric CO2 was 2.2 ppm per year in 2007, up from 1.8 ppm in 2006.

“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 Center.

Canadell said the credit crisis would most likely trim 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.”

For further details in the report, see

Editing by Paul Tait