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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press A plane flies behind steam and white smoke emitted from a coal-fired power plant in Beijing. Carbon pollution jumped 3 percent in China this year.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 1:00 am

Following 3 stagnant years, carbon pollution levels rise

SETH BORENSTEIN | Associated Press

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Protesters interrupt UN climate talks

Protesters drowned out speeches by White House advisers and business representatives Monday at an event the U.S. government sponsored at the United Nations climate talks in Germany promoting the use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

About 200 protesters stood up 10 minutes into the event and began singing an anti-coal song to the tune of “God Bless the U.S.A.” They were ushered out of the room without further incident.

The event late Monday was the only one the U.S. delegation organized at the ongoing climate talks in Bonn. 

Before the panel event, the governors of Oregon and Washington – Kate Brown and Jay Inslee, respectively – said Trump's rejection of climate change was “a dead end.”

“What you're going to hear today is essentially Donald Trump trying to sell 8-track tapes in a Spotify streaming world,” Inslee told reporters.

George David Banks, a White House adviser who was part of the U.S. panel, said ruling out the use of fossil fuels and other non-renewable sources of energy was only controversial “if we choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the reality of the global energy system.”

After the singing protesters left, the panel faced largely hostile questions from the audience about the facts and figures presented to support the continued use of fossil fuels.

WASHINGTON – Global carbon pollution rose this year after three consecutive years when levels of the heat-trapping gas didn't go up at all, scientists reported Monday.

Preliminary figures project that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are up about 2 percent this year, according to an international team of scientists. Most of the increase came from China.

The report by the Global Carbon Project team dashed hopes that emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas had peaked.

“We hoped that we had turned the corner. ... We haven't,” said study co-author Rob Jackson, an Earth scientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Carbon dioxide emissions rose steadily and slowly starting in the late 1880s with the Industrial Revolution, then took off dramatically in the 1950s. In the last three years, levels had stabilized at about 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

Estimates for 2017 put it at about 40.8 billion tons. Sixty years ago, the world spewed only 9.2 billion tons.

“It's a bit staggering,” said co-author Ralph Keeling, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientist, noting in an email that levels have increased fourfold since he was born in the 1950s. “We race headlong into the unknown.”

Man-made carbon dioxide is causing more than 90 percent of global warming since 1950, U.S. scientists reported this month.

This year's increase was mostly spurred by a 3.5 percent jump in Chinese carbon pollution, said study co-author Glen Peters, a Norwegian scientist. Declines in the United States (0.4 percent) and Europe (0.2 percent) were smaller than previous years. India, the No. 3 carbon polluting nation, went up 2 percent.

The 2017 estimate comes to an average of 2.57 million pounds of carbon dioxide spewing into the air every second.

The study was published Monday and is being presented in Bonn, Germany, during climate talks where leaders are trying to come up with rules for the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. The goal is to limit temperature rise to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit since preindustrial times, but it's already warmed half that amount.

“It was tough enough and if this paper is indicative of long-term trends, it just got tougher,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, who wasn't part of the team of 76 scientists who wrote the report.

The top five carbon polluting countries are China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan. Europe taken as a whole, would rank third.