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Global Emissions Grow at Record Rate as Nations Seek Climate Treaty

<p>New data suggests worldwide emissions surged in 2010 following a small dip during the economic downturn. The news comes as world leaders attempt to find common ground on the fate of the Kyoto Protocol.</p>

You may have heard the dismal news over the weekend that the global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are back on the rise, following a temporary dip during the recession.

CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels and producing cement grew 5.9 percent in 2010, largely driven by surging emissions in developing countries, as well as a return to the old upward trajectory in the developed nations.

In short, worldwide emissions topped 10 billion tonnes of CO2 for the first time in 2010, which could be the largest annual jump since the Industrial Revolution.

The release of the study from the Global Carbon Project, published in the journal Nature Climate Change and based on data from the U.S., U.N. and British Petroleum Company, comes as negotiators from around the world are meeting in Durban, South Africa over the fate of the Kyoto Protocol. The agreement, which commits developed countries -- except the U.S. -- to emissions cuts that average 5 percent below 1990 levels, will see its first commitment period end in 2012.

But as the Global Carbon Project figures reveal, global CO2 emissions have risen 49 percent since then.

News reports were abuzz over the weekend that China was perhaps softening its stance on a binding post-Kyoto agreement. The country is now the world's largest emitter but has steadfastly opposed emissions reduction goals for itself that may hinder its economic growth.

But China told EU representatives that it would not accept binding targets for itself, the Associated Press reported. And regardless of whether China changes its position, Canada said it would not renew its commitment under Kyoto. Japan and Russia have signaled similar plans. 

All of this, as well as the continued uncertainty over the fate of a legally binding climate agreement, doesn't bode well for our chances of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. A new report from the U.K.'s Met Office Hadley Centre warns that current trends put the world on a collision course with a 3 to 5 degree temperature rise by the end of the century.

The report analyzed the climate risks of 24 countries, finding that while some countries faced positive climatic changes, they were outweighed by negative impacts. Each country faces some sort of significant climate-related risk, such as coastal flooding, increased periods of drought or a reduction in food production.

Drought image via Shutterstock.



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