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Climate Change 2007 Update

7. What are the current trends in greenhouse gas emissions?

    The source document for this Digest states:


    1. The Working Group III contribution to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) focuses on new literature on the scientific, technological, environmental, economic and social aspects of mitigation of climate change, published since the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) and the Special Reports on CO2 Capture and Storage (SRCCS) and on Safeguarding the Ozone Layer and the Global Climate System (SROC).

    The following summary is organised into six sections after this introduction:

    • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emission trends
    • Mitigation in the short and medium term, across different economic sectors (until 2030)
    • Mitigation in the long-term (beyond 2030)
    • Policies, measures and instruments to mitigate climate change
    • Sustainable development and climate change mitigation
    • Gaps in knowledge.

    References to the corresponding chapter sections are indicated at each paragraph in square brackets. An explanation of terms, acronyms and chemical symbols used in this SPM can be found in the glossary to the main report.


    2. Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have grown since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70% between 1970 and 2004 (high agreement, much evidence).

    • Since pre-industrial times, increasing emissions of GHGs due to human activities have led to a marked increase in atmospheric GHG concentrations [1.3; Working Group I SPM].
    • Between 1970 and 2004, global emissions of CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs and SF6, weighted by their global warming potential (GWP), have increased by 70% (24% between 1990 and 2004), from 28.7 to 49 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (GtCO2-eq) (see Figure SPM-1). The emissions of these gases have increased at different rates. CO2 emissions have grown between 1970 and 2004 by about 80% (28% between 1990 and 2004) and represented 77% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2004.
    • The largest growth in global GHG emissions between 1970 and 2004 has come from the energy supply sector (an increase of 145%). The growth in direct emissions in this period from transport was 120%, industry 65% and land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF) 40%. Between 1970 and 1990 direct emissions from agriculture grew by 27% and from buildings by 26%, and the latter remained at approximately at 1990 levels thereafter. However, the buildings sector has a high level of electricity use and hence the total of direct and indirect emissions in this sector is much higher (75%) than direct emissions [1.3, 6.1, 11.3, Figures 1.1 and 1.3].
    • The effect on global emissions of the decrease in global energy intensity (-33%) during 1970 to 2004 has been smaller than the combined effect of global income growth (77 %) and global population growth (69%); both drivers of increasing energy-related CO2 emissions (Figure SPM-2). The long-term trend of a declining carbon intensity of energy supply reversed after 2000. Differences in terms of per capita income, per capita emissions, and energy intensity among countries remain significant. (Figure SPM-3a). In 2004 UNFCCC Annex I countries held a 20% share in world population, produced 57% of world Gross Domestic Product based on Purchasing Power Parity (GDPppp) and accounted for 46% of global GHG emissions (Figure SPM-3b) [1.3].
    • The emissions of ozone depleting substances (ODS) controlled under the Montreal Protocol, which are also GHGs, have declined significantly since the 1990s. By 2004 the emissions of these gases were about 20% of their 1990 level [1.3].
    • A range of policies, including those on climate change, energy security, and sustainable development, have been effective in reducing GHG emissions in different sectors and many countries. The scale of such measures, however, has not yet been large enough to counteract the global growth in emissions [1.3, 12.2].

    3. With current climate change mitigation policies and related sustainable development practices, global GHG emissions will continue to grow over the next few decades (high agreement, much evidence).

    The SRES (non-mitigation) scenarios project an increase of baseline global GHG emissions by a range of 9.7 GtCO2-eq to 36.7 GtCO2-eq (25-90%) between 2000 and 2030 (Box SPM-1 and Figure SPM-4). In these scenarios, fossil fuels are projected to maintain their dominant position in the global energy mix to 2030 and beyond. Hence CO2 emissions between 2000 and 2030 from energy use are projected to grow 40 to 110% over that period. Two thirds to three quarters of this increase in energy CO2 emissions is projected to come from non-Annex I regions, with their average per capita energy CO2 emissions being projected to remain substantially lower (2.8-5.1 tCO2/cap) than those in Annex I regions (9.6-15.1 tCO2/cap) by 2030. According to SRES scenarios, their economies are projected to have a lower energy use per unit of GDP (6.2 – 9.9 MJ/US$ GDP) than that of non- Annex I countries (11.0 – 21.6 MJ/US$ GDP). [1.3, 3.2]

    4. Baseline emissions scenarios published since SRES, are comparable in range to those presented in the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES) (25- 135 GtCO2-eq/yr in 2100, see Figure SPM-4). (high agreement, much evidence)

    • Studies since SRES used lower values for some drivers for emissions, notably population projections. However, for those studies incorporating these new population projections, changes in other drivers, such as economic growth, resulted in little change in overall emission levels. Economic growth projections for Africa, Latin America and the Middle East to 2030 in post-SRES baseline scenarios are lower than in SRES, but this has only minor effects on global economic growth and overall emissions [3.2].
    • Representation of aerosol and aerosol precursor emissions, including sulphur dioxide, black carbon, and organic carbon, which have a net cooling effect has improved. Generally, they are projected to be lower than reported in SRES [3.2].
    • Available studies indicate that the choice of exchange rate for GDP (MER or PPP) does not appreciably affect the projected emissions, when used consistently. The differences, if any, are small compared to the uncertainties caused by assumptions on other parameters in the scenarios, e.g. technological change [3.2].

    Source & ©: IPCC (WGIII) IPCC Climate Change 2007: Mitigation,
    Summary for Policymakers (2007)
    , p.3-6

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