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Gary Braasch
Photographer & Journalist
PO Box 1465
Portland, OR 97207 USA
Phone: 503.860.1228

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June 2011

Record amount of carbon dioxide spewed into the air from energy generation in 2010; 44 percent was from coal, a third from petroleum.

carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy generation in 2010 were the highest in history, according to the latest estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The total was five percent higher than the previous record, set in 2008; in 2009 emissions were slightly lower due to the world recession. The agency's chief economist, Fatih Birol, called the rebound "a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature" to a moderate amount.

Emissions from power plants, transportation, manufacturing, heating and other fossil fuel uses are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 Gigatonnes (Gt), said the IEA. Forty percent of this total came from the developed industrial nations of the world, but these countries only accounted for 25 percent of emissions growth compared to 2009. Nations considered to be developing – led by China and India – saw much stronger increases in emissions as their economic growth accelerated, the IEA report said. In terms of fuels, 44 percent of the estimated total CO2 emissions in 2010 came from coal, 36 percent from oil, and 20 percent from natural gas. Land use changes, agriculture and emissions from landfills and forest fires also add to the burden of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere but were not included in the report.

This IEA report indicates the major source for the steadily increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere as measured by NOAA and Scripps Institute of Oceanography on Mauna Loa in Hawaii. The level reached beyond a record 390 parts per million (ppm) last year, and currently is at more than 393 ppm. Scientists have continually stated that the world faces disastrous changes from rapid warming if CO2 concentrations exceed 450 ppm -- and many scientists urge a reduction down to 350 ppm.


In addition, the IEA estimated that the fossil fuel power plants which are already built or being constructed now make up 80 percent of projected emissions from the power sector in 2020. The power sector is the largest source of CO2. These plants are unlikely to be decommissioned, said the agency, making it very difficult to reduce emissions in the coming decade. China is estimated to be building more than one new coal power plant weekly, even as it becomes a world leader in wind and solar energy. In the US, the Sierra Club and other groups and state officials have successfully blocked plans for more than 150 new coal plants, and more are being challenged even as Congress has decided to take no actions to limit greenhouse gas output.

"Our latest estimates are another wake-up call," said Dr Birol on the IEA website. "Unless bold and decisive decisions are made very soon, it will be extremely challenging to succeed in achieving this global goal" of keeping extremely disastrous climate change effects from happening. Already, with just over a degree of temperature change from added CO2, there has been a measurable increase in sea level rise, the amount of rainfall per storm, the extent of drought and heatwaves, and loss of glacier and polar ice, and harmful effects on habitats and species (see this website and reports from the EPA and NOAA). The rise in world average temperature by the end of the century projected from our current increasing production of greenhouse gases ranges from 4 to 11 degrees F.

For more international information on the IEA report, see the Guardian.

For more information about World View of Global Warming' achievements, please see the Project Background page.

Greenhouse gases increase at record rate in 2010 to highest ever recorded -- Report from Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii


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