Figures from the Global Carbon Project, recently featured in an article in Nature Geoscience, brings forward new figures of CO2 decrease as a result of the recent and still actual economic crisis. The carbon emission levels of today are almost at the same level again as they were before the economic crisis, with only a minor decrease of 1,3 percent in 2009 and not the 2,8 percent as anticipated by climate scientists.

Image by The Library of Congress (source: Flickr)

Originally, climate scientists where expecting bigger carbon emission reductions than 1,3 percent but that was without consideration of the upcoming nations that are industrializing at a fast pace. If you look at the figures for Europe and the U.S. there is in my opinion a considerable decrease in CO2 emissions. England went down by 8,6 percent in 2009, the U.S. about 6,9 percent while Japan was good for a decrease of no less than 12 percent!

But as I said, the upcoming economies from the developing world did not feel the economic crisis as we did, and so there emissions didn’t go down at all. China tops it of with an increase in CO2 emissions of 8 percent, followed by India with 6,2 percent. When averaging all of those emissions out (we do still live on one and the same planet), the real reduction of carbon emissions is about 1,3 percent and that’s close to, well nothing really.

So where are we at now? Since the decrease in CO2 emissions is officially over, and since it was actually nothing more than a short-term stabilization, climate scientists now fear that we are looking at an annual carbon emissions increase of about 3 percent. To put this into perspective: in the nineties the increase was about 1 percent annually, after the year 2000 it was about 2,5 percent and now we are looking for 2010 and later at a minimum of 3 percent increase on a yearly basis.

More CO2 in the atmosphere means more ppm (parts per million) to account for. In Europe officials believe that 450 ppm is the maximum level of carbon and other greenhouse gases that can be released into the atmosphere without posing a serious threat to our global climate. At 450 ppm a temperature increase of 2 degrees would already be unavoidable, but still something “we could live with”.

Well now let’s move on to the good news. Currently, the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is already 340 ppm, even with the slight stabilization of 2009 taken into account. So if we continue to release carbon and other greenhouse gases at today’s rate, the planet will have warmed up by at least 4 degrees by 2100, making it unfit for living in most places.

What’s sad about all this is that we have a new Climate Conference (COP16) coming up in Cancun next week and that none of the participating officials expect an international treaty to come out of it. Where is the sense of urgently here? And why do they even bother coming together in the first place? Maybe to enjoy the beaches of Cancun one last time before it’s too late?