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Carbon emissions sees record rise despite economic recession

According to an unpublished report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) global greenhouse gas emissions has increased to new record levels. And this despite one of the worst economic recessions in recent history which analysts thought would lower the carbon emission levels from last year.

Analysts from IEA says the extreme rise in greenhouse gas emissions will make it impossible to reach the 2 degrees target that politicians have claimed is the threshold we should aim for to prevent dangerous runaway climate change. Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA, says that if the current rise in carbon emissions continues the 2 degrees target will just become "a nice Utopia".

"I am very worried. This is the worst news on emissions," Birol told
the Guardian
. "It is becoming extremely challenging to remain below 2 degrees. The prospect is getting bleaker. That is what the numbers say."

The British top climate economist Nicholas Stern, who recently endorsed the 350 ppm target, said in a response to the new shocking figures that we could see "widespread mass migration and conflict" as a result:

"These figures indicate that [emissions] are now close to being back on a 'business as usual' path. According to the [intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's] projections, such a path ... would mean around a 50% chance of a rise in global average temperature of more than 4C by 2100.

Such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict. That is a risk any sane person would seek to drastically reduce."

John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK, warned that time is now seriously running out for us:

"This news should shock the world. Yet even now politicians in each of the great powers are eyeing up extraordinary and risky ways to extract the world's last remaining reserves of fossil fuels – even from under the melting ice of the Arctic. You don't put out a fire with gasoline. It will now be up to us to stop them."

And just two days ago preliminary data from the US government's Earth Systems Research Laboratory was released showing that carbon dioxide levels peaked at the highest levels on record last week. The data show that "2011 CO2 levels peaked last week at 394.97ppm. This is an increase of nearly 1.6ppm on last year and the highest ever recorded".

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Simon, Very worrying, but the question I ask is why are emissions going up? Is it just the hangover from the pre-bust boom which we're only now detecting (i.e a delayed reaction)? or is it from increased use of dirtier fuels as people try and cut corners in the downturn? It could also be agriculture related, as the growing global population and increased meat production means an increase in greenhouse gases. Of course the worse case scenario is that's its coming from the natural world, the rain-forests and oceans. They are like a giant carbon sponge and there is a limit to how much greenhouse gases they can absorb, not helped by us burning them down/using the oceans as an open sewer. Have these sinks passed the tipping point where they begin to release more carbon than they take in? If so then we've got a mountain to climb....while wearing boxing gloves and roller blades!

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The Guardian article that the blog post link to says that the rise is greenhouse gas emissions mainly comes from our use of fossil fuels: "Last year, a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuel – a rise of 1.6Gt on 2009, according to estimates from the IEA regarded as the gold standard for emissions data." Let's hope that we have a little while longer until the self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms starts to kick in...

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The most worrying is that it seems that more and more people don't trust the media and environmental agencies anymore, all the more since the failure of the Copenhagen summit. I am currently working in carbon management company in South Africa (  http://www.climateafrica.co.za/, http://www.climatestandard.org/) and more and more people come up with stuff like "Why should we reduce our ghg emissions when volcanoes are responsible for more CO2 emissions than human activities?". I don't know where people hear that but i suspect anti-ecologist to be behind such statements. I did some research and volcanoes are responsible for 200 million tons of emissions whereas human activities represent 30 billion tons. I hope that the media will cover such questions more accurately, so that people become really aware of the problem.

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