The spike in carbon emissions in 2010, a 6% increase over 2009, was so humongous that the scientists measuring it initially thought that there must have been a mistake somewhere in the measurements.
Tom Boden, head of the Department of Energy’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center in Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, is quoted by AFP: “It’s big… Our data go back to 1751, even before the Industrial Revolution. Never before have we seen a 500-million-metric-ton carbon increase in a single year.” 512 million metric tons, to be precise.
Well, if it hasn’t been done since 1751, it has never been done by human beings. The last time this happened was 55 to 40 million years ago, in the Eocene. When India went plowing into Asia and threw up the Himalayas, the impact heated up the crust and released massive amounts of carbon dioxide. That happened, likely, over a long period of time, but the effect was an increase in the average surface temperature of the earth of 4-5 degrees Celsius. Antarctica became a tropical jungle.
While the increase is disheartening, it isn’t surprising. It was clear that the amazing Chinese economic engine was chugging along at its usual brisk pace last year. The US recovered somewhat from 2008–2009. And India had good growth last year, in common with Asian countries that are recovering from 2008 more quickly than the US and Europe because they were not so stupid as to deregulate their banks or mortgage markets.
But what struck me in the figures was that India came in just behind the United States in extra emissions over the previous year at 48 million metric tons of carbon. The US produced 59 million MT more, and China a dragon-sized 212 million. Of the 512 million MT increase over the previous year, those three countries were responsible for about 3/5s of it!