New global carbon emission numbers released on Sunday show that the world is heading in the exact wrong direction when it comes to its energy production policies and scientists at the Global Carbon Project now say that frightening climate change impacts are all but inevitable without a "radical plan" to decrease the level of greenhouse gasses spewing into the atmosphere.
The research by the Global Carbon Project, which releases an annual report card on global CO2 pollution, says emissions grew by over 3 percent in 2011, keeping the world on a nearly certain path towards dangerous changes to the climate, including more floods, droughts and more powerful and frequent storms.
As the Associated Press reports:
[...] all the world's nations combined pumped nearly 38.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, according to new international calculations on global emissions published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change. That's about a billion tons more than the previous year.
The total amounts to more than 2.4 million pounds (1.1 million kilograms) of carbon dioxide released into the air every second.
The GCP report is the latest in a string of dramatic scientific findings released as the UN Climate Change Conference deliberates a new global framework in Doha, Qatar. All the reports tell parts to the same story: climate change is here now and it's going to get much worse if world governments cannot find a way to change course in short order.
Though a past agreement saw leaders agree that preventing anything more than a 2°C global temperature rise should be the unifying goal, all the scientific evidence, including this latest report, show temperatures rising much beyond that.
"Unless large and concerted global mitigation efforts are initiated soon, the goal of remaining below 2°C will soon become unachievable," says the report. "A shift to a 2°C pathway requires immediate significant and sustained global mitigation, with a probable reliance on net negative emissions in the longer term."
"I am worried that the risks of dangerous climate change are too high on our current emissions trajectory. We need a radical plan," co-author Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in Britain and professor at the University of East Anglia, told The Guardian.
As negotiators from around the world convene in Doha, however, a workable and achievable deal seems as far away as ever.
"The prospect of catastrophic climate change needs to change the mindsets of political leaders," said Martin Kaiser, Greenpeace climate campaigner.
But even Christiana Figueres, the UN Executive Secretary of the climate convention, said the global negotiations —even if nominally successful—would not be sufficient to the task. Realizing the countries are still primarily concerned with national interests, the big fights over policy would still need to be handled at that level.
“We won’t get an international agreement until enough domestic legislation and action are in place to begin to have an effect,” she said in an interview with the New York Times. “Governments have to find ways in which action on the ground can be accelerated and taken to a higher level, because that is absolutely needed.”
The New York Times reports:
Over all, global emissions jumped 3 percent in 2011 and are expected to jump 2.6 percent in 2012, researchers reported in two papers released by scientific journals on Sunday. It has become routine to set new emissions records each year, although the global economic crisis led to a brief decline in 2009.
The level of carbon dioxide, the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, has increased about 41 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and scientists fear it could double or triple before emissions are brought under control. The temperature of the planet has already increased about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1850.
Further increases in carbon dioxide are likely to have a profound effect on climate, scientists say, leading to higher seas and greater coastal flooding, more intense weather disasters like droughts and heat waves, and an extreme acidification of the ocean. Many experts believe the effects are already being seen, but they are projected to worsen.