Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Trends in global carbon emissions

 Having been distracted by the issues of democracy,  of conflict, and community development, I want to return to the central crisis of Global warming and Climate Change.

If we accept that human intervention is the cause of climate change, then we must recognize that human behaviour has to change. The increase in CO2 and methane emissions is the direct result of human enterprises, in the form of generators, furnaces, engine combustion.

The EC Joint Research Centre have recently presented a report in collaboration with the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency looking at the trends in Global CO2 Emissions.[November 2013]
The report makes it clear how difficult it is to identify such emissions and how to present findings that tell governments and corporations what is going on in terms of the pollution of the atmosphere, and creation of climate change and global warming. The researches indicate that while CO2 emissions are at their highest level, there is evidence that the levels are lower in the ‘developed world’; [that more is less.]
The trends are based on measurements taken in 2012. The actual global emissions were 34.5 billion tonnes, which was an increase of 1.4% over 2011, but was significantly less than the annual increase of 2.9% since 2000. [more is less].
The report noted that there was a global shift to more renewable energy, and increased energy saving along with less intensive fossil-fuel activities: oil gas, coal.
The report did not focus only on global trends, it also told us about regional developments. CO2 emissions increased in China [6.3%], India [7%], and Japan [6%], and decreased in the USA [4%], the EU [1.6%], Russia[1%].
The increases in carbon emissions in China for 2012 did represent a decrease compared to the 10% annual growth since 2000. This decrease was the result of the reductions in the generation of electricity from coal, and increases in the use of  hydro-power.
The decrease in carbon emissions in the USA is the result of  the use of more gas [shale gas]. The decrease is significant, given that  the USA  has the highest emissions levels in the world!
The decrease of emissions in the 27 countries of the EU are the direct result of  the economic recession and the reduction in the consumption of  oil and gas.
The report concluded that while there was a global shift from the use of  coal to gas, to bio-mass, and the development of carbon capture systems, there was a decrease of nuclear power in the face of the Fukushima disaster.
It was noteworthy that  renewable energy from hydropower, solar panels, wind mills, and bio fuels was increasing, at last !
Will there be continuous decreases in CO2 emissions over the next decade?
An important step is for the increasing use of gas: shale gas , LNG.
High prices of coal and gas will effect the fuel mix of public utilities.
A prolonged recession in the EU will reduce the use of fossil fuels.
A change to a service based economy in China will reduce the production of electricity by coal.
Whatever is happening to the levels of carbon emissions, the particles of carbon dioxide  continue to rise. In 1990 there were 355particles of CO2 per million particles . In May 2013 this had increased to 400 ppm.

. Ted Trainer, of the University of New South Wales, in his analysis, published in The International Journal of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY, (October 2008) argued that once the concentration of carbon dioxide and other gases has reached 450 parts per million,  the greenhouse problem cannot be solved without large scale reductions in the volumes of economic production and consumption.

He asserts that the greenhouse problem cannot be solved within a society committed to free market capitalism and affluent living standards, maximum levels of economic output, and economic growth.  Ted Trainer, has been arguing for half a century that consumer societies are fundamentally unsustainable. He argues that the alarming greenhouse/ energy/ equity problems now threatening us cannot be solved within any capitalist/consumer society but require a vast and radical transition to very different economic, political and value systems and structures. A simpler way is the only way forward. We must drastically reduce economic production and consumption. Is it possible to stop climate change and environmental pollution if we stop the emissions of heat trapping gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane? A report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 2009, proposes that it is too late and that it will not be possible to stop climate change and environmental pollution. Many people who worry about global warming hope that once emissions of heat-trapping gases decline, the problems they cause will quickly begin to abate. Now researchers are saying that such hope is ill founded, at least with regard to carbon dioxide. Because of the way carbon dioxide persists in the atmosphere and in the oceans, and the way the atmosphere and the oceans interact, patterns that are established at peak levels will produce problems like inexorable sea level rise and Dust-Bowl-like droughts for at least a thousand years. According to this view, the damage has already been done!