2010 Global Carbon Dioxide Levels Hit Record High

Posted November 11th, 2011 at 11:30 pm (UTC-4)

Smoke billows from a coal-fired power plant (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, file)

Smoke billows from a coal-fired power plant (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, file)

New US government data indicates that 2010 was by far, a record year for global Carbon-Dioxide emissions.

Every year around October 28, a part of Tom Boden’s job is to enter new data taken from global and national estimates of carbon emissions due to fossil-fuel combustion and cement manufacturing into a US Government database/dataset that contains information related to yearly carbon output going back to the year 1751.  As he fed in this year’s data, Tom and his colleagues noticed that the new numbers seemed to be quite higher than usual, in fact they questioned whether they should believe them or not since the information was so compelling.

Tom Boden is the director of the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC), which is located at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The CDIAC is the primary climate-change data and information analysis center of the US Department of Energy (DOE).

On a global scale, some 9,139 teragrams – a teragram is a million metric tons – of oxidized carbon were emitted from fossil-fuel combustion and cement manufacture.  This represents an increase of about 512 teragrams, or 5.9%, over the 2009 global estimate.  In 2008, 8,749 teragrams were emitted worldwide making the 2010 estimate about 104.5% of that, or 391 teragrams more.  When all of this oxidized carbon, along with the mass from oxygen molecules, is converted to carbon dioxide (CO2), we’re looking at amounts of over 33.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide being dumped into the atmosphere in 2010.

Tom Boden, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center - US Department of Energy

Tom Boden, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center - US Department of Energy

Among factors scientists considered when determining reasons why levels of carbon rose or fell over this three year period (2008 through 2010) were the global financial and economic crisis that started in 2008.  Boden and his colleagues were a bit surprised that the impact of the financial crisis didn’t result in lower global numbers, but instead jumped even higher than previous years.

Much of that 5.9% global increase from 2009 to 2010, according the latest estimates, is due to increased emissions from the world’s largest fossil-fuel emitter, the People’s Republic of China, where emissions rose by 10%.   2010 carbon emissions from the United States were up by almost 4%, of the 2009 estimates. But when comparing this recent data with the numbers from 2007, the record high year for the US, the 2010 carbon output was 6% less.  The recent set of estimates also show that other countries had similar experiences.  While a number of nations did have decreases in the amount of emitted carbon, Boden says “the big story here is some of the large increases in the developing countries.”

The estimates the CDIAC generates are from underlying statistics that are reported by a number of sources including the United Nations, The International Energy Agency in Paris, related agencies from individual countries, for example the United States information is from the US Department of Energy, among others and data that is produced by private companies such as British Petroleum (BP).

If you want to examine the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center carbon emission estimates and check out similar data from the past you can do so by visiting their web site.

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Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

7 responses to “2010 Global Carbon Dioxide Levels Hit Record High”

  1. John Morris says:

    This story is complete crap. Monitoring CO2 emissions since 1751, since before the Declaration of Independence. Give me a break. Global warming is the biggest hoax ever.

    • Alan_F says:

      I look at it as good news. Linear increases in CO2 without the same in temperature and no explanation for the missing heat in spite of looking for an explanation of just that since 2005. The sky isn’t falling any more.

  2. Daved De Kiesby says:

    Should that be ‘1951’?

  3. Mambo Tembo,Zambia says:

    This is not true.Why the third world. Guys,let us generate true and valuable statistics on global waring so that the world is informed roundly than is now.

    • Hello Mambo Tembo,

      Thanks for your comments! But, I should clarify and bring to your attention that we’re talking about C02 levels… not climate change/global warming.


      Rick Pantaleo

      • Mambo Tembo,Zambia says:

        Hi Panteleo,

        May I know the relationship between CO2 and global warming? Let us be realistic here.If we are saying that CO2 levels are increasing,so should global temperatures.I think it is high time we became realistic and answer correctly the concerns of others.


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