One of the major contributors to climate change is carbon dioxide (CO2). My colleague at Earth Policy Institute, Frances Moore, has been tracking CO2 emissions and recently released an Eco-Economy Indicator on CO2 emissions.
Check out the Earth Policy Institute data.
She writes that despite the unambiguous evidence that carbon dioxide is warming the planet, the growth in emissions is accelerating. "Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels stood at a record 8.38 gigatons of carbon (GtC) in 2006, 20 percent above the level in 2000. Emissions grew 3.1 percent a year between 2000 and 2006, more than twice the rate of growth during the 1990s. Carbon dioxide emissions have been growing steadily for 200 years, since fossil-fuel burning began on a large scale at the start of the Industrial Revolution."
She notes that just five countries are responsible for over half of fossil-fuel-related CO2 emissions, with the United States and China alone accounting for more than a third. The United States has been the world's largest emitter for over a century, releasing 1.66 GtC in 2006, or 19.8 percent of global emissions. In China, which is currently opening an average of two coal-fired power plants a week, emissions have more than doubled since 1990, reaching 1.48 GtC in 2006, or 17.7 percent of the world total. Analysts expect that China will overtake the United States to become the world's largest emitter before 2009.
As Fran writes, "The IPCC projects that without policy measures to address global warming, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning could more than double between 2000 and 2030, a trajectory that would make it almost impossible to avoid a temperature increase of 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. Increasing evidence suggests that even a warming of less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures would constitute "dangerous" climate change, something nations have already committed to avoid under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change."
It is clear that we must act swiftly to substantially cut emissions. I outline a plan for cutting net global carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent by 2020 in Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, which is available for free downloading. Putting this plan into action would halt and reverse the longstanding trend of growing carbon dioxide emissions. ::Earth Policy Institute
Understanding Carbon Dioxide
::Where Does all the Carbon Dioxide End Up?
Carbon Dioxide Research
::Modified Plastic Membrane Helps Strip Carbon Dioxide from Natural
::Thirsty Trees Drink Carbon Dioxide Instead
::Mice Can Sniff Out CO2 in the Air
::Micro-Algae Will Clean Up Tar Sands, Make Biofuel, Save World
::Important! Why Carbon Sequestration Won't Save Us
Lester Brown is founder and director of the Earth Policy Institute and a regular contributor to TreeHugger. Learn more about alternative energy and solutions for a sustainable future in his previous columns or read a review of and download Plan B 3.0.
Photo top: Courtesy of Getty Images. Photo bottom courtesy of Richard I'Anson/Getty Images.