The biggest spike in greenhouse gases ever observed was reported by the Department of Energy last week. “ The world pumped about 564 million more tons of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009,” reported the Chicago Sun-Times,” “an increase of 6 percent.” The amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of every country in the world except the top three producers of gases - China, the United States and India.
The accompanying chart illustrates why. The production of GHG was way down in 2009 because of the recession. Output from coal was actually down 12 percent and emissions from oil and gas also declined. This exaggerates the percentage of increase in 2010 because it was coming off a very low base. Still, output from all fossil fuels was up 4 percent in the U.S., which puts it only slightly lower than the world figure. The Energy Information Administration projects there will actually be a decline from U.S. sources over the next two years, with only natural gas rising 2 percent in 2011 and coal emissions declining 3 percent in 2012. This reflects the changing profile of electrical generation, as illustrated in the next graph.
What is not expressed here is the shift in GHG output from the U.S. and Western Europe to Asia. While the developed countries are making some slight progress in reducing carbon emissions, this is likely to be overwhelmed by growing output in China and the rest of Asia.