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Fossil fuels

Growth of global carbon dioxide emissions "spiraling out of control," report finds

Monday, November 13, 2006 by: Jessica Fraser
Tags: fossil fuels, CO2 emissions, global warming


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(NewsTarget) In the past five years, growth of global carbon dioxide emissions was four times higher than the previous 10 years' growth, according to a new study by the Global Carbon Project.

The study, which exposes critical mistakes in worldwide efforts to avoid harmful climate change, found that the global growth rate of carbon emissions from 2000 to 2005 was 3.2 percent, compared to 0.8 percent from 1990 to 1999.

Experts believe much of the increase is because China's expanding economy relies heavily on burning coal and other unclean fossil fuels for energy.

According to Dr. Mike Raupach, chair of the Global Carbon Project, the global emissions growth rate is escalating out of control.

"This is a very worrying sign," Raupach said. "It indicates that recent efforts to reduce emissions have had virtually no impact on emissions growth and that effective caps are urgently needed."

Current levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are 380 parts per million (ppm), and experts warn that if numbers reach 450 or 500 ppm, irreversible and damaging climate change will occur.

Josep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project, said that at the world's current rate of global emissions growth, it could soon be impossible to avoid some global worst-case scenarios.

"On our current path, we will find it extremely difficult to rein in carbon emissions enough to stabilize the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration at 450 ppm, and even 550 ppm will be a challenge," Canadell said. "At some point in the near future, we will miss the boat in terms of achieving acceptable levels."

Based on current carbon emissions growth trends, the 500 ppm mark will occur sometime this century. The last time the planet experienced 500 ppm carbon levels was 20 to 40 million years ago, when sea levels were 100 meters higher than present-day levels.

Professor Bill McGuire, director of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre in London, called the Global Carbon Project's report "very bad news," and called for extreme worldwide emissions reductions.

"We need a 60 to 70 percent cut in emissions, but instead, emission levels are spiraling out of control," he said. "The sum total of our meager efforts to cut emissions amounts to less than zero."

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