Friday, November 04, 2011

Stunning new carbon emissions data

The headline from the Associated Press "Biggest Jump Ever in Global Warming Gases" tells part of the story. The preliminary estimates of fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions for 2010 from Oak Ridge National Laboratory reveal what appears to be a quick rebound from the global financial crisis. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production increased 6% from 2009 to 2010, driven in large by by China. This was the largest one-year (and total) increase in carbion dioxide emissions in the Oak Ridge data. 

If you drill into the numbers, which can be found here, you discover how economic turmoil, international development and, yes, maybe even a push to low-carbon economy in some countries, is changing the world. In the 2010 data (top right), China is by far the top emitter, ahead of the U.S., and India is now in the third spot. Of course, this ranking does not take population into account; the per capita emissions in China, and especially India, are far lower that that in the U.S. and Canada.

What is even more striking is the change over the past three years. I've plotted the percent change from 2008 to 2010 for the same "top twenty" countries (bottomr right). Here you can see that fossil carbon emissions increased rapdily in the major developing economies - China, India, Indonesia, etc, emissions from all of the major emitting countries in the developed world decreased. The industrialized nations that ratified the Kyoto might actually come close to reaching the emissions reductions targets set back in 1997 (we need to wait a couple more years to know for sure). Emissions growth in the developing world, however, is outpacing predictions, so total global emissions continue to increase. This will undoubtedly trigger further arguments about the value of the developed world actions without commitments from the developing world, and counterarguments about equity and sustainable development.

A final note: There are two very important things to keep in mind when looking at these charts. First, this is only carbon dioxide. Despite the use of the plural gases in AP headline, the data is just carbon dioxide. The country-by-country breakdown might be a bit different if the metric were carbon dioxide "equivalent", the catch-all term in which the radiative effect of methane, nitrous oxide and the other greenhouse gases is convered into units of carbon dioxide. Second, this is only from fossil fuel and cement. Again, the numbers would be different if greenhouse gas emissions from land use change were included. For one, Indonesia, might vault up the list, at least to sixth spot, probably even higher.


Anonymous said...

For a ranking of countries for all GHG emissions in 2008, see the EDGAR website:

Anonymous said...

The sorting in the figures is not decreasing. The countries are perhaps sorted for 2008 ode 2009 data.

Simon Donner said...

That is true about the sorting from 1 - 2%; nevertheless, those are the top twenty from 2010.

Anonymous said...

do you vabe any uptodate figures available on per capita emission..
I did read that China is actually ahead of many EU conutries, and is on target to match or exceed the EU per capita emissions next year..

Making the chaces of EU emissions reduction look poliitcally difficult, especialy whilst a eurozone finacial crisis is ongoing..

I can't find any 2010 soon to 2011 uptodate per capita figures anywhere..