90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Thursday, June 13, 2013

Soaring Carbon Emissions Point To ‘Disaster For All Countries’

The sun sets behind the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant in Emmett, Kan. in December 2012. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

The sun sets behind the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant in Emmett, Kan. in December 2012. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Global levels of carbon dioxide rose to record high levels last year, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

The IEA is warning that unless nations take urgent action to change this, average temperatures on the earth could rise by more than nine degrees Fahrenheit, which its chief economist warns “would be a disaster for all countries.”

Steven Mufson, energy correspondent for The Washington Post, says one challenge is population growth.

“By 2050 — the target date for a lot of these goals — the world may have a third more people,” Mufson told Here & Now. “So just to keep it mission steady is going to be a huge task. To actually lower them by 30, 40, 50 percent, the way a lot of climate scientists say is necessary, is just a monumental task. And frankly, I’m not sure how we get there.”

The U.S. was one bright spot in the report. For the fourth time in five years, carbon emissions in the U.S. were down.

But can that downward trajectory be maintained?


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Richard Levine

    Rapid development of hydrogen fusion for generation of electricity appears to be the ONLY solution to the world’s energy demand in the long term so it drives me crazy that everyone seems to ignore the need to perfect it ASAP and continues to pretend that fossil fuel supply is endless.  It’s also idiotic to BURN such a valuable feed stock for industry as oil and gas represent while the actual burning destroys the environment.  Is there really no intelligence in this part of the universe?

    • Alex R

      I’d agree that it’s idiotic that we still so casually burn 300 million year old carbon compounds as our main source of energy. But I don’t think we should just bet the farm on scientists quickly resolving the technical obstacles to economically viable controlled fusion. We are, after all, dealing with a climate system featuring inertial lag and a potential interplay of amplifying feedbacks. While the research continues, it’s time to get cracking on fostering economies of scale for existing practical efficiency and alternative energy tech. One of the few promising ways of doing that might be pushing for a revenue-neutral carbon fee and incentive system.

  • mjonesx

    We may be using natural gas to reduce our emissions, but the coal we do not consume any longer is exported to China. Go figure.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nigel-Jessen/100001918780098 Nigel Jessen

       Where much of it is used to make cheap stuff for Westerners. :-|

  • Tom Phillips

     Anyone see the TED talk on the molten salt thorium reactor? Seems quite promising. Apparently China is hot to commercialize it but may lack the skills to do so at this time. Developed at the Oak Ridge National Labs in the 70s but shelved due to lack of interested. (No plutonium by products may have been the reason).

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

August 29 Comment

World Championship Tug-Of-War Is ‘A Thing Of Beauty’

This weekend's competition in Wisconsin is a bit more intense than it was in your grade school gym class.

August 29 Comment

Repelling Mosquitoes With A Natural Sticky Patch

The Kite Patch releases odors that block the bug's carbon dioxide receptors, sending them in another direction.

August 28 Comment

Catching Up With The Polyphonic Spree

The choral rock band out of Dallas, Texas, has been thrilling audiences with its live performances for over a decade.

August 28 5 Comments

‘Enormous’ Growth Of Ocean Garbage Patch

The oceanographer who discovered the floating island of trash in 1997 says he's shocked by how much it's grown.