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Highest greenhouse gas emissions in history push global warming towards ‘dangerous’ levels

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  • Recession hasn’t slowed down emissions, as was hoped
  • Global temperature will rise by 4C by 2100 if action isn’t taken
  • Thawing plant matter in the Arctic will release billions of tons of greenhouse gases

Global warming is fast heading towards ‘dangerous’ levels owing to the emission of a record amount of greenhouse gases last year, according to new figures.

Estimates from the International Energy Agency show that a whopping 30.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide was pumped into the atmosphere last year – a worrying rise of 1.6Gt on 2009.

The IEA has warned that annual emissions should be no higher than 32Gt by 2020 if the world is to avoid the most damaging effects of global warming.

Last year 30.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide was pumped into the atmosphere - a rise of 1.6Gt on 2009

At the current rate of carbon dioxide production, the threshold of ‘dangerous climate change’ – defined as a global temperature rise of 2C – looks almost impossible to be avoided.

‘It is becoming extremely challenging to remain below 2 degrees. The prospect is getting bleaker,’ said Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA.

It had been hoped that the global recession would have a positive effect on emissions – but the impact so far is negligible.

If we continue the way we’re going, there is a 50 per cent chance that the global average temperature will rise by more than 4C by 2100, according to Professor Lord Stern of the London School of Economics, the author of the Stern Report into the economics of climate change in 2006.

‘Such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict,’ Stern told the Guardian.

Around two-thirds of the world's permafrost will have melted by 2200, unleashing close to 200 billion tons of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere

Meanwhile, the thawing of billions of tons of frozen plant matter in the Arctic could result in an acceleration in climate change as locked away organic carbon is released into the atmosphere, according to scientists.

The ice in the far reaches of the northern hemisphere is melting so quickly that a ‘tipping point’ – where the region no longer becomes a ‘sink’ for carbon dioxide – could occur within 20 years.

By 2200, around two-thirds of the world’s permafrost will have melted, unleashing close to 200 billion tons of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere – a process which cannot be reversed.

‘Once the frozen carbon thaws out and decays, there is no way to put it back into the permafrost,’ Kevin Schaefer of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado told the Independent.

World map detailing major polluting nations' efforts to reduce carbon emissions

The recent nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant in Japan is also adding to global warming woes as countries turn their back on the ‘cleaner’ power source, according to Dr Birol.

‘People may not like nuclear, but it is one of the major technologies for generating electricity without carbon dioxide,’ he said.

As well as Japan, Germany has halted its nuclear power programme, and a number of other European countries are considering whether or nor to follow suit.

Via DailyMail


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