Human carbon emissions are still rising, but luckily it seems like renewable energy sources are making an effort in curbing the increase. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
Good news: "The Dark Knight Rises" opens this weekend. Everybody must be excited (unless the spoilers floating around have already ruined the movie) to see just how Nolan's trilogy ends. But here's a spoiler alert that isn't really new anymore: more bad news for Planet Earth concerning carbon emissions. A report released by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency states that CO2 emissions increased by 3 percent and reached an all-time high in 2011.
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Total world emissions from 2011 reached 34 billion tons.
Despite a decline due to the recession and rising gas prices, the United States still put out 17.3 tons of CO2 per capita. The United States has also emerged as the largest natural gas producer in the world, and some of the rising emissions can be attributed to the increased use of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, or shale gas fracking.
China, meanwhile, increased its CO2 emissions by a whopping 9 percent, putting it at 7.2 tons per capita. Major industrialized nations usually put out 6 to 19 tons per capita of CO2, according to the report.
CO2 emissions declined in 2008, but then bounced back with a 5 percent increase in 2010. The average increase at 2.7 percent per year.
There is a bright side to the otherwise dreary report on how we are destroying our planet. Renewable energy sources are increasing at a faster rate.
Renewable energy doubled from 0.5 percent to 1 percent from 1992 to 2004, but hit 2.1 percent by 2011. The report estimates that this saved 0.8 billion tons of CO2. The numbers rely on a conversion rate of 38 percent from renewable energy to useable primary energy.
Despite China's image as a coal-smoke burping factory, one-third of potentially avoided emissions comes from the country as it has ramped up hydropower. Brazil accounts for one-eighth of potentially avoided emissions for the same reason.
It's clear that our carbon emissions will eventually saturate the Earth and have major atmospheric and meteorological consequences. Hopefully future reports will be a little more upbeat, but that will depend on our collective will as a society to have some foresight.