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Report: Carbon pollution to grow by 40 percent

The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide seeping into the atmosphere will increase by nearly 40 percent worldwide by 2030 without  mandatory emission caps, a U.S. government report says.
Image: hazy street view in Linfen, China
A cyclist crosses a street in Linfen in northern China's Shanxi province, a city notorious for its pollution.Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide seeping into the atmosphere will increase by nearly 40 percent worldwide by 2030 if ways are not found to require mandatory emission reductions, a U.S. government report said Wednesday.

The Energy Information Administration said world energy consumption is expected to grow by 44 percent over the next two decades as the global economy recovers and continues to expand. The biggest increases in energy use will come from economically developing countries such as China and India.

Substantial growth is expected in the use of renewable energy sources such as hydropower, wind and solar, the report said. But it also said overall growth in demand will require continued reliance on fossil fuels, especially oil and coal.

As a result, the analysis predicted a steady increase in emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that scientists say threatens a serious warming of the Earth later this century. Between now and 2030, Wednesday's report said, global carbon dioxide pollution is expected to increase by 39 percent. That translates to 33 billion metric tons in 2015 and 40 billion metric tons by 2030, compared to 29 billion metric tons in 2006, the report said.

The EIA report emphasized that its analysis is based on current regulatory and legal requirements and does not assume enactment of laws or international treaties requiring reductions in greenhouse gases. Any such action would force shifts away from fossil fuels and less carbon pollution being released.

Reducing emissions
Congress is considering legislation that would reduce greenhouse gases by 17 percent by 2020 and about 80 percent by mid-century. President Barack Obama has called for mandatory limits on greenhouse gases. An international conference is scheduled for December to try to work out a treaty requiring such emission reductions.

But the EIA analysis provides an indication of how difficult such reductions might be to achieve given the expected increase in future energy growth and continued heavy reliance on fossil fuels without some international, mandatory action to address climate change.

The EIA report said that "much of the increases in carbon dioxide emissions is projected to occur among the developing nations" including China and India.

It said 94 percent of the world's expected increase in industrial energy use between now and 2030 is expected in the economically developing countries, with Brazil, Russia, India and China expected to account for two-thirds of that growth.

Dependence on oil
The EIA report projected continued growth in demand for oil, although unconventional resources such as biofuels, oil sands and liquid coal are expected to increase as well and account for nearly half of the projected increase in overall liquid fuel demand.

The report declined to project future oil prices, noting that "recent experience demonstrates that world oil prices can be extremely volatile." Instead it provided a broad range of possible future oil prices, depending on future production and demand of oil and other liquid fuels.

Crude oil prices could range from $50 a barrel in 2030 or as much as $200 a barrel in 2007 dollars, the report said, depending on available supplies of oil, biofuels and other liquid fuels.

Crude oil prices increased to about $63 a barrel on Wednesday, the highest since last November. Oil prices reached a peak of $147 a barrel in mid-2008.