December 15, 2014 By the end of this year, more than half of all industrial emissions of carbon dioxide since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution will have been released since 1988 — the year it became widely known that these emissions are warming the climate.
I recently learned this startling fact from my colleague Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute. Heede drew upon historic estimates of annual global carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement manufacturing by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) and the 2014 annual update on the global carbon budget and trends published by the Global Carbon Project (GCP), an international scientific research consortium studying the global carbon cycle.
The GCP estimates that in 2014, we will release a record 37 gigatons (GT) of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from burning coal, oil, and natural gas, and manufacturing cement. That’s a 2.5 percent increase over emissions in 2013, itself a record year. This brings the total industrial carbon dioxide emissions since 1751 to an estimated 1480 Gt by the end of this year. And, remarkably, more than half of these emissions, 743 Gt, or 50.2 percent, have released just since 1988.
More than half of all industrial carbon dioxide emissions have been released since 1988. Image: Union of Concerned Scientists