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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