As 200 nations meet in Doha, Qatar for the latest UN Climate Treaty talks, reports were painting a depressing picture of how the world has failed so far to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
On December 4 at the start of the so called "high-level segment" of the Doha conference which ends December 7, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was time to "prove wrong" those who still have doubts about global warming." He noted that most scientists agree rising greenhouse gas emissions will cause climatic disruption.
Around the same time, widely published research by the Global Carbon Project, showed that total greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and cement production have jumped 58% between 1990 (the Kyoto Protocol's base year) and this year.
According to the report, China's emissions in 2011 are now the largest of any nation, standing at 28% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Its emissions grew 9.9% in 2011 and 10.4% in 2010. In comparison, emissions from the United States are 16% of the total, and recently have fallen. India's emissions grew 7.5% in 2011, and 9.4% in 2010.
The Global Carbon Project has also estimated that the current growth in emissions will see the world warming between 4 C and 6 C — far above the 2 C which is the tipping point for climate change according to many environmental scientists.
The Associated Press reported that 2011 the world's nations in total pumped 38.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air from fossil fuels. That is about 1 billion tonnes more than in 2010, or an increase of 3.1%. "That amounts to more than 1.1 million kilograms of carbon dioxide that is released into the air every second," said AP.
A report released by the UN Environment Program on November 27 emphasized the importance of including the thawing of permafrost into climate prediction modeling. It warned: "The threat posed by carbon dioxide and methane emissions from warming permafrost has only begun to enter mainstream scientific discourse in recent years and, as a result, has not been included in climate prediction modeling."
The Program noted that permafrost is "one of the keys to the planet's future" and because it contains large stores of frozen organic matter that would be released with thawing, it would amplify current global warming.
The conference in Doha is hoping to find ways for nations to agree on ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming below a 2 C average. The secretariat is aiming for a "universal agreement before 2015."
Currently a major point of dispute is whether developed countries and regions like the U.S. and Europe which have historically contributed more greenhouse gases through industrialization, should be bearing proportionally more of the burden in reducing their emissions than developing countries.