Global emissions of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels will reach 36 billion tonnes for the year 2013 – a level unprecedented in human history – according to the annual Global Carbon Budget, produced by an international team of researchers including Dr Jo House of the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol.
The report shows that global emissions due to fossil fuel alone are set to grow this year at a slightly lower pace of 2.1 per cent than the average 3.1 per cent since 2000, reaching 36 billion tonnes by the end of this year – 61 per cent above emissions in 1990. The 2013 growth comes on top of a similar 2.2 per cent increase in 2012 reinforcing a slower than average growth.
The Budget, produced by the Global Carbon Project, is an annual report of carbon dioxide emissions, land and ocean sinks and accumulation in the atmosphere, incorporating data from multiple research institutes from around the world.
This year's report also shows that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increased in 2012 at a faster rate than the average over the past 10 years because of a combination of continuing growth in emissions and a decrease in land carbon sinks from very high levels in the previous two years. Carbon dioxide uptake from the atmosphere to land in 2012 was lower than the very high levels in 2011 and 2010, returning to average levels of the last decade.
Growth rates for major emitter countries in 2012 were 5.9 per cent (China), -3.7 per cent (USA), -1.3 per cent (EU28), and 7.7 per cent (India). The 2012 carbon dioxide emissions breakdown is coal (43 per cent), oil (33 per cent), gas (18 per cent), cement (5.3 per cent) and gas flaring (0.6 per cent).
Cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide from all sources (fossil fuels plus land use change) since 1870 will reach 2,015 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide this year. A continuation of the emissions growth trends observed since 2000 would place the world on a path to reach 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times in 30 years.
Dr House says, "About a third of carbon dioxide emissions stay in the atmosphere for centuries. A continuing rise in emissions will take us faster towards major impacts that will be felt within our own generation, and a greater burden for our children's generation. Reducing fossil fuel emissions through energy efficiency, renewable energy and through small individual changes is possible now, and will improve energy security now and in the longer term."