Carbon Emissions Reached Record Levels in 2011, Report Says

Global carbon dioxide emissions reached record levels in 2011, driven largely by a 9.3-percent increase in Chinese emissions, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). According to preliminary estimates, worldwide carbon emissions climbed to 31.6 gigatonnes in 2011, a 3.2-percent increase from 2010. India’s emissions rose by 8.7 percent, passing Russia to become the world’s fourth-biggest emitter (behind China, the U.S., and the European Union). Such increases offset a reduction in emissions in the EU and the U.S., where a sluggish economy and an increased shift from coal to natural gas contributed to a 1.7-percent decline in carbon emissions. “The new data provide further evidence that the door to a two degrees Celsius trajectory is about to close,” said Fatih Birol, IEA’s chief economist, citing concerns among scientists that emissions must begin being significantly reduced by 2020 to prevent potentially destabilizing temperature increases of more than 2 degrees C. According to the report, the burning of coal accounted for 45 percent of total energy-related carbon emissions, followed by oil (35 percent) and natural gas (20 percent).