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Global Carbon Emissions Projected to Reach Record High in 2013

Nov 19, 2013 04:25 PM EST

Global carbon emissions are expected rise to a record high this year of 36 billion metric tons, according to new figures from the Global Carbon Project.

The rise represents a 2.1 percent increase in projected emissions and puts 2013 global emissions from burning fossil fuels at 61 percent above 1990 levels, the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol.

The projected rise in emissions clashes with the United Nations goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius.

"Emissions must fall substantially and rapidly if we are to limit global climate change to below two degrees. Additional emissions every year cause further warming and climate change," said Corinne Le Quéré of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, the lead author of the Global Carbon Budget report.

The report singled out China as the world's biggest carbon emitter, accounting for 27 percent of global fossil fuel emissions in 2012. The US ranked a distant second place at 14 percent, followed by the European Union countries with a combined 10 percent and India at 6 percent.

The projected carbon emissions rise in 2013 follows a similar rise from 2012, where global emissions rose by 2.2 percent.

Researchers warn that continued emissions at the present level will eventually derail any proactive attempt to curb global warming.

"We have exhausted about 70 percent of the cumulative emissions that keep global climate change likely below two degrees. In terms of CO2 emissions, we are following the highest climate change scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in September," said Pierre Friedlingstein from the University of Exeter.

While China leads the world in total CO2 emissions, the US is the frontrunner in per person emissions. Per person emissions in the US are calculated to be 16 metric tons per person, more than double the 7 metric tons per person in China and the EU.

Forty-three percent of global CO2 emissions come from the burning of coal, followed by oil at 33 percent, then gas (18 percent), cement (5.3 percent) and gas flaring (0.6 percent). The increase in coal burning-related emissions this year corresponded to more than half of the growth in overall fuel emissions.

The Global Carbon Project has established a website, the Carbon Atlas, which details the emissions from the world's top carbon emitters.

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