If estimates are to be believed, carbon dioxide emissions are continuing to accelerate rapidly in the 21st century.
According to a report in ENN (Environmental News Network), the estimates are in contrast to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) projections in 2000 of how greenhouse gas emissions were likely to evolve during the twenty-first century.
he high-end scenario combined rapid economic growth and globalization with intensive fossil fuel use and is used as the IPCC's upper limit for estimates of future climate change.
Yet this upper-limit projection predicted annual emissions growth of only 2.3 percent between 2000 and 2010-far less than the 3.1 percent annual increase observed so far this century.
"Global carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels stood at a record 8.38 gigatons of carbon in 2006, 20 percent above the level in 2000", writes Frances C. Moore in a recent Earth Policy Institute release.
According to Moore, emissions grew 3.1 percent a year between 2000 and 2006, more than twice the rate of growth during the 1990s.
Carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning is accumulating in the atmosphere. Ice core records indicate that there is more CO2 in the atmosphere now than at any point in the last 650,000 years, reaching 384 parts per million (ppm) in 2007.
Between 2000 and 2007, atmospheric CO2 concentration grew by an average of 2 ppm per year, the fastest seven-year increase since continuous monitoring began in 1959.
Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, in combination with other greenhouse gases, have raised global average temperature by 0.8 degrees Celsius, with more than two thirds of that increase coming since 1980.
This warming is already affecting natural systems around the world.
Scientists have documented trends of more heat waves, longer and more-intense droughts, higher sea level, more-frequent heavy rain events, and stronger hurricanes.
"Carbon dioxide emissions have been growing steadily for 200 years, but the growth in emissions is now accelerating despite unambiguous evidence that carbon dioxide is warming the planet and disrupting ecosystems around the globe," he said.
The IPCC projects that under business-as-usual, CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning could more than double between 2000 and 2030, making it almost impossible to avoid a temperature increase of 3 degrees celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.
Increasing evidence shows that even a warming of less than 2 degrees would constitute dangerous climate change, suggesting the world must move rapidly to reverse the long trend of growing CO2 emissions.