Global Carbon Emissions Rose by Record Volume Last Year

The volume of greenhouse gases pumped into the world’s atmosphere increased by an unprecedented amount last year, scientists said in research published as countries meet to discuss how to limit climate change.

Emissions rose the equivalent of 510 million metric tons of carbon to 9.14 billion tons in 2010, the most in records dating to 1959, according to data compiled by the Global Carbon Project, which includes scientists from Europe, the U.S. and India. That’s a 5.9 percent leap, the largest since 2003, when they jumped 6 percent, the data show. Last year’s global emissions were 33.5 billion tons when converted to carbon dioxide.

Delegates from almost 200 nations started a second week of meetings in Durban, South Africa, today to debate ways of limiting the gases that contribute to global warming. Climate change is being overshadowed by concern over the European debt crisis and U.S. economic slump, reducing the chances of an agreement, according to the Washington-based World Resources Institute, an environmental lobby group.

“We’re going exactly in the wrong direction for limiting global warming,” said Corinne Le Quere, co-author of the Global Carbon Project’s report and a director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, England. “Governments need to develop ways to boost the economy using renewable energy,” she said in a phone interview today.

Emission Levels Rebound

Emissions rebounded from the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, when greenhouse gas output temporarily decreased, according to the study. Heat-trapping gases from the trade of goods and services produced in emerging economies and consumed in richer nations increased to the equivalent of 16 percent of developed-nation emissions in 2010, from 2.5 percent in 1990.

The U.K.’s University of East Anglia was investigated last year after stolen e-mails showed that researchers exchanged comments about withholding data from critics seeking to discredit their work. The university was cleared in April 2010 of malpractice by a panel of six scientists based in the U.K., U.S. and Switzerland.

This year will probably be the 10th warmest on record, and the hottest featuring the La Nina phenomenon that brings cooler waters to the surface of the Pacific Ocean, the World Meteorological Organization said on Nov. 29.

‘Clear Warming Trend’

“There’s clearly a warming trend. That’s supported by other indicators such as disappearing Arctic sea ice, melting glaciers and rising sea levels,” Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring at the U.K. Met Office, whose own temperature estimates feed into the WMO data, said on Nov. 29.

Delegates at the Durban talks remain divided over how to combat growing emissions.

A lack of a global climate agreement may prompt Europe, home of the largest emissions trading market, to restrict international trade with nations that don’t commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, according to World Growth, a lobby group for economic development.

“Now it is clear the Kyoto Protocol has failed, we should expect environmental NGOs to demand green trade barriers against imports from those who would not make the cuts proposed in the Protocol,” Alan Oxley, World Growth’s chairman, said in a statement today. “Unilateral trade barriers like this simply invite retaliation against EU exports and the EU would be the biggest loser.” Oxley was Australian ambassador for GATT, or General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade between 1985 and 1989. That’s the predecessor to the World Trade Organization.

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