Greenhouse Gas Emissions Take Big Jump in 2010

The 2010 results on CO2 emissions are out, and the news is not good. Emissions in 2010 are up, and beyond the levels expected.

Here is a graph from the International Energy Agency that tells the story:

The graph shows that emissions took a dip in 2008–2009 as a result of the global recession, and then growth came roaring back in 2010. The 2010 increase is the largest single-year increase in the data series, which has data back to the 1750s. (The series is available from Oak Ridge National Labs.) Emissions are up by 5% since their 2008 dip.

The colored lines in the graph show various projections from the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the worldwide group of scientists and policy analysts who have developed a coordinated view of our planet’s future. The black line, the data, is bursting through the colored lines, meaning that we are exceeding most projections. Although the projections were made recently (in 2007), we are already on the way to the worst-case scenario envisioned then.

So that’s the grim news about the big picture. Digging one layer deeper, the sources of the increase are revealing:

• In the global emissions downturn of 2008–2009, China’s emissions continued to grow steadily, while Europe’s fell.

• In 2010, emissions grew in both China and the U.S., with the two countries accounting for more than 40% of the 2010 increase.

• 80% of the emissions increase is coming from permanent infrastructure changes—such as new power plants—meaning it will be hard to make them go away.

So what’s a person to do? Fast-rising emissions can seem daunting. We suggest two things: Personal Action and Policy Changes.

As you already know, WattzOn can help you find ways to save energy at home and in your daily life. We also think that policy changes—such as appliance standards—will nudge consumers toward ever more energy savings. Look for more on both of these topics in the coming months.

While consumer decisions may seem too small to make a difference, we are a world of consumers: that is why we produce things, and that is where the energy is being used. How we consume makes a difference.


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