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Worldwide CO2 Emissions Hit Record High In 2011

Coal-fired power plant, Poland

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), CO2 emissions rose to 31.6 billion metric tons last year, up 3.2 percent. China made the largest contribution to the rise, with emissions rising by 9.3 percent.

According to scientists, global average temperatures must not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius this century if we want to avoid devastating climate effects such as melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, increasingly intense floods and droughts, and mass crop failures.

Fatih Birol, chief economist of IEA, told Reuters we’re not exactly on the right track. “When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius by 2050, which would have devastating consequences for the planet.” He also believes “it would be unrealistic to think that there will be major breakthroughs very soon.”

More than 180 nations have negotiators gathering in Bonn, Germany to work toward a new global climate pact to be signed by 2015. The goal is to develop a plan that will keep emissions levels around 44 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2020, which scientists believe is the only possible way to avoid serious consequences.

Birol suggests the biggest ways to meet new emission targets is to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies, boost energy efficiency, and phase out coal.

The United States is the second largest CO2 emitter, and fortunately managed to cut emissions by 1.7 percent, due in part to switching from coal to natural gas in power plants. This shows that switching to natural gas is a viable alternative for countries such as China and Japan who are seeing a gradual increase in their emissions.

These numbers are pretty staggering, especially for those who may have thought new efforts toward clean energy and emissions reductions would have begun to push numbers in the other direction. We still have an incredibly long way to go if we want to significantly lower global CO2 emissions, and not a lot of time to do it.

Image CC licensed by placid casual: Coal-fired power plant, Poland

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