World's pollution rises 3 percent

  • By Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press
  • Published December 2012

The amount of heat-trapping pollution the world spewed rose again last year by 3 percent. So scientists say it's now unlikely that global warming can be limited to a couple degrees-an international goal.



World

The overwhelming majority of the increase was from China, the world's biggest carbon-dioxide polluter. Of the planet's top 10 polluters, the U.S. and Germany were the only countries that reduced their carbon-dioxide emissions.

Last year, all the world's nations combined pumped nearly 38.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, according to new international calculations on global emissions. That's about a billion tons more than the previous year. The total amounts to more than 2.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide released into the air every second.

Because emissions of the key greenhouse gas have been rising steadily, and most carbon stays in the air for a century, it is not just unlikely, but "rather optimistic" to think that the world can limit future temperature increases to 2 degrees, said the study's lead author, Glen Peters at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo.

Three years ago, nearly 200 nations set the 2-degree temperature goal in a non-binding agreement. Negotiators now at a conference underway in Doha, Qatar, are trying to find ways to reach that target.

The only way, Peters said, is to start reducing world emissions now and "throw everything we have at the problem."

Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria in Canada who was not part of the study, said, "We are losing control of our ability to get a handle on the global warming problem."

In 1997, most of the world agreed to an international treaty, known as the Kyoto Protocol, that required developed countries such as the U.S. to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by about 5 percent when compared with the baseline year of 1990. But countries that are still developing, including China and India, were not limited by how much carbon dioxide they expelled. The United States never ratified the treaty.