CO2 Emissions Are Rising. Or Falling. Actually, It's Both.

By Andrew Moseman | November 18, 2009 5:20 pm

coal pollution air factory power220This week in Nature Geoscience, a cadre of scientists going by the name Global Carbon Project will publish a meta-analysis of global carbon emissions. The study led to headlines like, “Global CO2 emissions to drop 2.8 pct in ’09: report,” and many others more in the ominous vein of “Earth ‘heading for 6C (6 degrees Celsius)’ of warming.” So how did both headlines come from the same study?

This year’s dip is correct: “In 2009, it is likely that the global financial crisis will cause global emissions to actually fall by a couple of percent,” said Michael Raupach, co-author of the report and co-chair of the Global Carbon Project [Reuters]. But, he says, the carbon cut will be short-lived if the recession ends.

In that case, the researchers say, the world will return to its normal trend. Since 2000 emissions have been rising by an average 3.4 per cent every year, compared to one per cent in the 1990s [The Telegraph]. Overall, worldwide emissions rose by 29 percent from 2000 to 2008, and the scientists put forward that 6 degrees Celsius global warming figure as a worst-case scenario—what could happen if the overall rising trend continued unabated.

The timing of their warning seems clear. This week President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao talked climate during their meeting in China, with the world climate summit looming. The two committed their countries — the biggest emitters of the heat-trapping gases causing global warming — to backing a detailed political agreement at next month’s climate-change conference in Copenhagen. In their formula, rich countries would commit to reduction targets while developing ones would agree to meet softer goals that would be monitored [MSNBC].

The most troubling assertion of the Global Carbon Project study, however, might be this: The team believes that carbon sinks – the oceans and plants – are probably absorbing a slightly lower proportion of the carbon dioxide from fossil fuel emissions than they were 50 years ago, although researchers admit that uncertainty about the behaviour of sinks remains high [BBC News].

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Image: iStockphoto

  • Spectroscope

    The greenhouse FXT is a lot of hype over nothing.

    In comparatively recent geological times Co2 levels have been *much* higher than now and sea levels etc .. too and it hasn’t been the end of the world.

    Our climate has varied cyclically & constantly due to natural orbital, solar, astronomical and geological cycles even over historical time – look up the Little Ice Age, Medieval Warming, Dark Age Cooling , Roman Warming, Akkadian cooling, etc ..

    In the 1970’s global average temperatures were heading down & the doom-sayers were all messing ’emselves at the thought of an upcoming ice age. Now its warmed up a smidgin and the Climate Alarmists are soiling their pants over the so-called supposedly human induced anthropogenic Greenhouse Effect instead.

    But its utter media and funding driven nonsense – C02 levels trail global climate temperatures rather than cause them.

    The Eco-Apocalyse we’re being howled at by the Alarmist lobby is never going to come – at least not for a billion years or so when the Sun evolves towards red giant-hood.

    So let’s be sane & just enjoy the relatively warm & mild spell of global ave. climate while we can – the worst of it is probably over anyway as the planet has been cooling since 1998 & in any case human activities can’t do a thing about it – unless we adjust the thermostat on the Sun or change the Earth’s orbit.

    Give it a decade and the Alarmists will be wetting themselves about it being a new ice age again – perhaps by them we’ll have stopped listening to bad “watermelon green”* scare “science” and started looking at the real, less exciting but more accurate reality? We can but hope.


    * Watermelon green = Deep Environmentalist Green on the outside, deep Socialist / Communist Left Red on the inside.

  • Chrysoprase

    @1 – So I suppose the increase in ocean acidity due to dissolved co2 causing mass extinctions in coral reefs is a non-issue? Even if climate change isn’t driven by humans it’s hard to deny that we’re making the oceans more acidic. acidity

    It would be nice if you had credible citations, or in fact any citations, to back up your talking points.

  • Christina Viering

    Another global warming issue.

  • Eamon

    Spectroscope@1 sez:

    In comparatively recent geological times Co2 levels have been *much* higher than now

    Define ‘comparatively recent’ would you?

  • Patrick

    ‘comparatively recent’ The period of the Roman Empire, ending at the approach of the ‘Dark Ages’ Temperatures were about 3 degrees F warmer. Greenland really was green. The climatologists pass this off to buffalo farts in North America. ( Really this isn’t a Joke) ( well it is, but this was put forth a valid reason for the warmer period (1500 years)

    Come on people! We live on the outer edges of the atmosphere of a star. What do you THINK will be the greatest reason for warming or cooling……….THE SUN?

    We are causing the acidification and “dead zones” of the Oceans. But even with this the Earth will endure ( No need to save it) We on the other hand might not make it Ü

  • Eamon


    If you’d paid a bit more attention you’d have seen that Spectroscope’s quote includes the words geological time. Is the Roman Empire millions of years in the past?

    As for your factoids:

    Roman Empire – so? There have always been regional variations in temperature. You might also want to note that the temperatures usually quoted are from dendrochronology, the study of tree ring growth, which is less accurate when you go back more than a thousand years.

    Greenland being green – rubbish. It was slightly more clement though, before local cimate changes made the colony unviable.

    The Sun – We live on the outer edges of the sun’s atmosphere? Really? Has the Earth suddenly shifted to the orbit of Mercury?

    The ‘It’s the sun!’ claims of climate denialists is the most stupid of their pseudo science: Mercury recieves six times more energy from the sun than the earth (ten times more at it’s closest approach), Venus recieves twice as much energy. It is unconcievable that we would not have noticed the effects of such a solar energy increase on those planets.

    A good layman’s reference on Greenland is Jared Diamond’s Collapse

    For the solar energy figures check Table 2 on this page:

  • Dave

    Back in the 70’s we had a different name for what’s “wrong with this picture.” It was “pollution”. Simple as that. Whether the changes in CO2 levels are raising or lowering global temperatures has become a ridiculous and pointless side show. Excessive CO2 is only one of hundreds of contaminates bringing an ever increasing decay to far more than ancient glaciers. We’ve forgotten the big picture here. Global temperatures, water levels, and ice caps have waxed and waned since the Earth formed. It’s been part of nature’s cycle and will continue to be and we’ve made it through a good many millennia so far. But there’s no natural changes that will undo the toxic contamination that’s increasing in our atmosphere, our seas and oceans, and our soil. Nature doesn’t have a cycle that will fix or change that. Nature dies from too much poison, and as nature dies, so will we. There is no high ground or cooler climate to go to. I don’t understand how global warming got to be scarier or more important that that. But if that’s what it takes for people to take our impact on our planet seriously again, it’s better than nothing. But please, don’t stop there.

  • Michael

    OK, looky here—the earth has been cooling off since the hot year of 1998, despite the ever-increasing amount of greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere, including a significant rise in methane, which is a far more ‘powerful’ greenhouse gas than CO2. That is a significant and measurable fact, and impossible of you believe the vaunted IPCC reports.

    Of course, measurable facts have never stopped politically motivated scientists and true-believers from expounding the dire warnings of doom and gloom. These folks sadly remind me of the religious fundamentalists who always ignore any facts in order to remain attached to their bigotted dogmas.

    The monumental tragedy here is like the fable of the boy who cried ‘wolf’ — his credibility was so erroded that when the real wolf arrived no one believed him. The alarmists who predict flooding, hurricanes, massive death, etc. are crying wolf, and demeaning the already suspicious public’s faith in science in general. So how can we expect citizens to embrace science when their own everyday experiences and valid common sense tell them that the scientific ‘concensus’ is simply wrong? We can’t.

    Indeed, as I like to point out, when did a show of hands determine science fact? ‘Concensus’ is a politcal concept, and certainly not a scientific one. Again, observe one of the coldest and wetest winters in many decades, where new cold records will be set, and try to convince folks about global warming. Note that these cooler falls, colder winters, and cooler springs are a continuing trend, and not some localized weather anomalies.

    I really hate to see this happening, as it just gives fodder to the anti-science religious groups that have always attacked science as an atheistic plot to destroy faith. But a lot of so-called free thinkers are showing themselves to be nothing more than political lemmings, following their pathetic leaders off the cliff of unfounded scientific theory.

  • Eamon


    OK, looky here—the earth has been cooling off since the hot year of 1998

    1998 was an exceptional El Nino year, so what you’re saying is akin to claiming winter’s come early if you experience a cool day in summer.

    The temperature trend is still up.

    For more info check

  • Bob Driscoll

    It’s hard for a man to believe something, when his job depends on him not believing something.
    In this case its not so much the job as the restriction of consumerist tendencies.

    Do you know what the yeast cells said as they slowly drowned in their excrement?
    “If only I had the vision and brains to identify and preclude future catastrophes”
    no wait that’s not right.
    they said
    “sugar yum sugar yum …”

  • bonsai king

    We believe too much in ourselves, that we believe that we are big enough to cause planetary changes. We have just risen from ice age and we are now going through the usual global warming process. The earth will continue to warm as it has done so for millions of years, then it will gradually cool down to another ice age. And the cycle goes on. If not for the very extreme hot conditions, large dinosaurs will not be able to exist. Global forest fires and volcanic eruptions are still the largest contributor to CO2 emissions as it has been for millions of years. We are still very small. If humans stop logging, all the forest on the earth can be grown back in 50 years. We have not made any damage on the earth that can not be recovered in a few years.

    Yes, It is still best to start controlling ourselves now. The earlier the better.


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