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Global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise (+video)

Despite global talks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide production is up 3 percent in 2011, with three of the top five emitters being developing countries.

By Wynne ParryLiveScience / July 20, 2012

Smoke billows from a chimney of a heating plant as the sun sets in Beijing in this file photo dated Monday, Feb. 13.

Alexander F. Yuan/AP


International talks to address human-caused global warming began 20 years ago in Rio de Janeiro. But despite attempts to curb emissions of the greenhouse gases responsible, they have continued to pour into the atmosphere since then.

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Last year was no exception.

In 2011, the burning of fossil fuels, as well as other activities such as cement and oil production, produced 3 percent more carbon dioxide in 2011, bringing this segment of emissions to an all-time 37.5 billion-ton (34 billion-metric tons) high that year, a European analysis reports. 

Top emitters

The past decade has seen a 2.7 percent annual increase in carbon dioxide emissions. China, the United States, the European Union, India, the Russian Federation and Japan rank as the top five emitters, from highest to lowest.

Last year's increase was driven by China and India, which saw their carbon dioxide emissions jump by 9 and 6 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, emissions from the European Union, the United States and Japan all decreased, according to the report, Trends in Global CO2 Emissions.

"Although all developing countries together increased their emissions on average by 6 percent, the increases in China and India caused by far the largest increase in global emissions," the report notes.

The report, by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the E.U.'s Joint Research Centre, does not include carbon dioxide emitted by deforestation, forest fires and other land-use related activities. These sources could potentially add between 10 and 20 percent to the carbon dioxide emission figures, the authors write.

The authors also note that renewable energy technology, such as solar, wind and biofuels, accounts for a small share of energy sources; however they found its use is accelerating.

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