In 2007, scientists revealed that human-made carbon dioxide emissions were increasing beyond what's been predicted. In the 1990s, it was only at 1.3% annually, but in the next decade moving into the 21st century, this figure went up to 3.3%. It was a dramatic increase that was blamed on growing industries. The results of the study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) journal.
The NAS identified the sources of the carbon dioxide emissions as part of the economic boom experienced in that time worldwide. According to study author Josep Canadell of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia, this boom resulted in the increase of greenhouse gas contributors such as coal-burning electricity plants. Canadell said this is reflected in carbon intensity, which measures the amount of carbon needed to produce $1 for the economy.
The level of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has been known for a long time to be steadily increasing. As a greenhouse gas, this can trap the sun's heat in the atmosphere which can increase average temperatures worldwide and cause climate change, specifically global warming.
Now, scientists are saying that CO2 emissions have tapered off. A recent study (2009) conducted by the International Energy Agency (IEA) concludes that the dip in CO2 emissions over the last year will be greater than any dip in the last forty years. The reason for the drop, as identified by the IEA, is the current economic recession as well as the imposition of stricter environmental policies signed into law by governments like the United States.
Canadell said efficient technologies mean more wealth generated for the same level of emissions. While this is offset by growing economies which still use old fashioned energy sources, the belt-tightening of countries and a more environmentally-conscious populace means there's a trend to use less energy. It's now felt in the form of less CO2 emissions. The IEA research came one year after the start of the global economic meltdown.
What does this mean for global warming? For one, it simply shows that with concerted effort (and this does not mean working together to bring down the economy), it is possible to make a change that could very well keep the Earth from plunging into a very warm future that could devastate civilization as we know it with extreme environmental changes. The debates on global warming may continue, but any change that may take place as a result of the physical conditions around us will have to be either dealt with or claimed. In the meantime, this news will allow a little breathing room until the economy picks up again.
This post is for Blog Action Day, October 15, 2009.
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