Energy Department: World CO2 Emissions Rising Faster Than Ever

New emissions figures suggest future global warming may exceed scientists' worst predictions.

| Fri Nov. 4, 2011 3:54 PM EDT

New figures released by the Department of Energy show that the world is emitting carbon dioxide at a rate much faster than scientists had predicted. Global CO2 emissions reached 10 billion tons in 2010, the Oak Ridge National Lab reports, about 564 million tons or 6 percent more than emitted in 2009. It's the biggest annual jump ever recorded thus far:

Oak Ridge National Lab/APOak Ridge National Lab/AP

"It's a big jump," Tom Boden, director of the Oak Ridge's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, told The Associated Press. "From an emissions standpoint, the global financial crisis seems to be over."

The new figure also means CO2 is now being emitted at a rate higher than the figure the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) used in 2007 to project its worst-case scenario for global temperature increase by the end of the century (depicted by the red line in the graph below):

NASA Earth ObservatoryNASA Earth Observatory

In light of the new DOE report, the question scientists are asking now is whether the world will experience the IPCC's worst case scenario "or something more extreme," Christopher Field, a Stanford University professor and head of one of the IPCC's working groups, said.