An insignificant fall in carbon emissions

Atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide fell in 2009.

There are two small points worth noting here: (1) we are in a recession, and one would expect global carbon emissions to correlate positively with the level of economic activity; (2) during the same period carbon emissions rose in China and India by nine and six percent, respectively. So all in all it’s not particularly good news, especially when one considers that the overall emissions reduction in 2009 was just 1.3%.

The data in question, or, to be more precise, fossil fuel emissions estimates, come from a paper by Oslo-based climatologist Gunnar Myhre and others which was published recently in the journal Environmental Research Letters. This is an addendum to a study published last year by the same authors, which details a method for calculating annual carbon emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels by combining data from an established dataset with BP’s annual statistics.

So what else do Myhre and his colleagues have to say?

  • Emissions from oil and gas have decreased, whereas those from the burning of coal have remained stable;

  • China is now responsible for 24% of global fossil fuel emissions.

Chinese carbon emissions have increased more than can be accounted for by economic growth. To explain this the researchers highlight the country’s high level of carbon-intensive infrastructure investment (including the building of wind turbines), and an export sector that rapidly recovered from the worldwide financial crisis.

Further reading

Myhre et al., “Addendum to ‘A fast method for updating global fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions’”, Env. Res. Lett. 5, 039701 (2010)

Myhre et al., “A fast method for updating global fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions”, Env. Res. Lett. 4, 034012 (2009)