Skip to main content

Greenhouse gases near record 39.6 billion tons in 2013

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 12:34 PM EST, Wed November 20, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Greenhouse gas emissions are 61% higher than they were in 1990
  • In the West, they have fallen; the U.S. produced 3.7% less in 2012
  • China is the biggest polluter with 27% of the world's emissions
  • But pollution per person is highest in the United States

(CNN) -- Smoke stacks and exhaust pipes around the world are blasting greenhouse gas emissions to a new record annual high. They should break 39 billion tons this year.

But there's also some good news, a new study published Tuesday said. The rate at which people are polluting the air may be leveling off.

In the West, emissions contributing to global warming even dropped last year.

The United States pumped 3.7% less carbon dioxide into the air in 2012 than in the previous year; Europe 1.8% less.

CORRECTION
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the amount of global greenhouse gas emissions expected to be released in 2013. The correct figure is 39.6 billion tons.

Globally, greenhouse gases are being emitted at a slower rate this year than they were last year, and in both years the climb in emissions was less intense than in the past decade taken as a whole, said researchers at Britain's East Anglia University.

Justices to review greenhouse gas regulation

Drop in the bucket

It's an improvement -- but a drop in the bucket by global emission standards.

Greenhouse gases are blowing into the atmosphere at rates 61% higher than they were in 1990, the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol.

The international agreement is designed to decrease emissions contributing to global warming by holding its signees to reduction goals. The vast majority of the world's nations have signed on to it.

The United States is not one of them.

China is.

But the world's largest carbon emitter, which wrested the dubious title from the United States in recent years, pumped 5.9% more into the atmosphere in 2012 than in the previous year.

India contributed 7.7% more emissions in 2012.

Path to catastrophe

Not only must the increase stop, the researchers said, but industrialized nations must achieve a global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Time is running out to stop the world from reaching a dreading global warming threshold.

The world is on a course with current emission levels to reach a rise in global temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius or more and end up in the worst climate change scenario issued by the U.N. panel on climate change.

The study includes a carbon atlas, which shows levels of pollution emitted by each nation and their development over the last 50 years.

In 2012, the largest contributors of greenhouse gases were China with 27%, the United States with 14% and the European Union with 10%.

On an individual basis, China and the EU were at the same level, with 7.7 tons of carbon gas emitted per person and year.

Americans still polluted the most by far, with more than 17 tons of carbon gas emitted per person in 2012.

The 'nuclear renaissance:' What went wrong?

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The tragic killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a bitter public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 7:07 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
North Korea warns the United States that U.S. "citadels" will be attacked, dwarfing the hacking attack on Sony that led to the cancellation of a comedy film's release.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it's never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
More than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation, Unicef has warned.
updated 8:22 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Boko Haram's latest abductions may meet a weary global reaction, Nigerian journalist Tolu Ogunlesi says.
updated 5:34 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Drops, smudges, pools of blood are everywhere -- but in the computer room CNN's Nic Robertson reels from the true horror of the Peshawar school attack.
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 9:31 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT