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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

China's emissions from coal increase despite economic downturn

Emissions increase despite financial crisis

ScienceDaily, November 22, 2009 — A new study from Norwegian and New Zealand scientists provides updated numbers for CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. While the global financial crisis may have slowed down the emission growth, it has not been sufficient to stop it: From 2007 to 2008 global emissions from fossil fuels increased by 2.2%. From 2003 to 2007, the average fossil emissions increased by 3.7% a year.

"The financial crisis started in the latter part of 2008, so the full effect of the financial crisis of CO2 emissions will most likely be on the emissions in 2009," scientist Gunnar Myhre at CICERO Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo, said.

Coal most important
According to the study published in Environmental Research Letters, coal in 2006 bypassed oil as the largest source of CO2 emissions. Emissions from gas and oil have had a rather constant growth since 1990. For coal however, the picture is different.

"Emissions from coal have had a strong increase since 2000, and coal is now the driver of the strong fossil fuel CO2 emission growth. The main reason is increased use of coal in China, largely due to export production," Myhre said.

India coming up
For the first time, India's emissions now increase faster than the Chinese emissions.

"The growth rate of the emissions has been slightly higher in India the last two years. Still, China is by far the leading world polluter, but we can expect Indian emissions to play an increasingly important role in the future," Myhre said.

Fossil energy's role
According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a large reduction of emissions from fossil sources is needed to reduce global warming. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from 280 ppm in 1750 to 383 ppm in 2007. Around 75% of the increase until now is due to CO2 emissions from fossil energy; 25% is due to changes in land use.

Whereas the trend in CO2 emissions from land use over the last few decades has been relatively constant, an increasing trend in fossil fuel CO2 emissions has been reported. This increasing trend is driven by enhanced economic growth and also an increase in carbon intensity.

All main IPCC scenarios of fossil fuel CO2 emissions show an increase over the next few decades with a large spread in emissions estimates up to 2100. Future atmospheric CO2 concentrations not only depend on the emissions, but also on the net uptake of CO2 by land and ocean.

The study was conducted by Gunnar Myhre and Kari Alterskjær at Center for International Climate and Environmental Research -- Oslo (CICERO) and Dave Lowe at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand.

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