Thanks, Global Recession: You Made Carbon Emissions Drop a Little

By Jennifer Welsh | November 22, 2010 4:15 pm

carbon-emissionsWorld carbon emissions fell by 1.3 percent in 2009, most likely due to the global recession, says a report from the Global Carbon Project published today in Nature Geoscience. Emissions were originally expected to drop further (about 3 percent, as estimated from the expected drop of world GDP), but China and India’s surging economies and increasing carbon output countered the decreases elsewhere.

The largest decreases occurred in Europe, Japan and North America: 6.9% in the United States, 8.6% in the U.K., 7% in Germany, 11.8% in Japan and 8.4% in Russia. The study notes that some emerging economies recorded substantial increases in their total emissions, including 8% in China and 6.2% in India. [USA Today]

There is some good news from the report. It seems the atmospheric CO2 concentrations didn’t jump as much as they were expected to, which means the world’s carbon sinks were performing better.

While emissions did not fall much, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increased by just 3.4 gigatonnes – one of the smallest rises in the last decade. Friedlingstein says the land and marine sinks performed better in 2009, because the La Niña conditions in the Pacific meant the tropics were wetter, allowing plants to grow more and store away more carbon. [New Scientist]

Researchers believe that reforestation has had a positive impact on the world–newly-planted trees have been sucking up carbon from the air, says Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project.

The researchers also point out that the regrowth of forests in temperate regions has overcompensated for carbon dioxide emissions from land conversion outside the tropics. “In the temperate world, we’re now planting more trees that we are cutting down,” says Canadell. [CBC News]

2009’s decrease in C02 emissions don’t signal a broader trend: 2010 is looking to be a record-breaking year in the other direction as the world recovers from the recession. Some argue that the direct link between economic success and carbon emissions reveals a deeply dysfunctional system.

These two paradoxical years — a 10 year low in carbon emissions one, and record-breaking output the next — speak volumes about the nature of the global carbon-intensive economy. It demonstrates, yet again, how tightly carbon emissions are tethered to economic growth in the current development model. And it helps make the case, yet again, that we need to make major strides to bring emission levels down in industrialized economies (especially the US) and urgently rethink the development model — which is, as of now, standard — that relies on dirty fuels like coal to power growing economies. [Treehugger]

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Image: Flickr/dmytrok

  • Michael

    Gee, let’s continue to beat the very dead AGW horse. And now all of the folks who have lost their jobs, homes, vehicles, etc. should rejoice because their sacrifice has helped to make the syncophants a bit richer, as China and India continue to build coal plants at the rate of one a month.

    The legislators in Canada finally came out of their coma [maybe due to the ever increasingly frigid winters there] and dumped the AGW ‘tax the poor to make the rich richer’ carbon taxes, and restrictions on people keeping warm in the winter.

    This winter is going to be another doozy, and just maybe the shivering folks will finally understand that the Earth’s weather is cyclical, and we are entering a cooling period that may push us into another Younger Dryas event, or, if we have some major volcanic eruptions, a full-blown Ice Age.

    Warmer weather has always been beneficial to people, plants and other animals, while cold spells have been disasterous. Just consider the recent ‘Little Ice Age’ which caused dramatic changes in demographics throughout the world.

    Of course, historical and scientific facts have never prevented the myopic elitists from pushing their self-serving agenda. At least now they are getting the appropriate ‘cold shoulder’ from the population.

  • Neil

    Yay! Another politically-motivated comment on a science-oriented blog!

  • Michael

    Yep…far from the first, and it won’t be the last.

  • scott

    OK Michael, China is doing it, so lets make sure to do it too and (regardless of global warming fact or fantasy) fill the skies with more soots and acidify the oceans. I think we can do better…we could be much further along with alternative energies than we are now, all which would create a whole new manufacturing industry creating many new jobs and fields of work and study. If Bush, or Cheney had for whatever reason pushed alternative energies, they would be heros to guys like you, Obama does it and its socialist elitism. I think so much of this political division is based on party affiliation, racism, fears, etc.

    The recession is not just about heating and electricity…its about millions of people NOT buying junk they dont need – tons of plastic toys and stuff from Chinese factories, cheap baggage, purses, plastic household items that get thrown out after a year of use..less needless trips to the mall to buy more clothes and crud to stuff in closets and storage rooms. Disposable, one use plastic floss and toothbrushes, plastic water bottles, bags, endless useless hair care products in endless plastic bottles. Mix all that waste and use with a growing population that is ignorant on what this doing to the oceans and we have a disaster approaching, and it does not matter if climate change is happening or not naturally, or due to man. I see it as a seperate crisis all its own.

    If society was more conscienscious of that, the heating and industrial use of fossil fuels might not be so bad, the Earth is very capable of absorbing and recycling our waste and can provide society with abundance – if better cared for. I think people focus on big energy, trucks, Hummers, power, heating, etc and forget about the huge impact on fossil fuel wastes and pollution from…..the hoarding of junk, endless strip malls and Wal-Marts, factory farms, fast food, etc and that our economy is based on a constant buying and using and buying more junk.

  • Valentina


    Totally agree with you.

    I would actually call it “Global weather changing” more than global warming since what we see is an increase of extreme phenomena.


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