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Global emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide are on course to rise yet again in 2013, reaching a new high of nearly 40 billion tons, according to figures released Monday by researchers who track emissions around the globe.
The projected 2.1 percent rise over 2012 figures "is not a surprise at all," Roisin Moriarty, a research scientist with the Global Carbon Project at the University of East Anglia's Tyndall Center for Climate Research, told NBC News in an email. In fact, "it is a little lower than the value we predicted last year — 2.6 percent."
The slowdown, she added, is almost entirely due to slower economic growth in China. Both 2012 and 2013 showed slower rates of growth than the 10-year average of 2.7 percent. But this slowing rate of growth, Moriarty noted, is nothing to celebrate.
"We are 61 percent above 1990 levels in terms of emissions. Absolute emissions are still going up," she said. And while China's growth has slowed with its economy, other developing countries such as India "with burgeoning economies will bring emissions up, unless we collectively find a way to speed up low-carbon development and reduce the dependence of rich countries on fossil fuels," she added.
The report was released as U.N. climate talks in Warsaw, Poland, enter their second week of negotiations in how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
"Governments meeting in Warsaw this week need to agree on how to reverse this trend," Corinne Le Quéré, a researcher at the Tyndall Center for Climate Research who led the Global Carbon Budget report, said in a news release.
According to the report, the biggest contributors to fossil fuel emissions in 2012 were China with 27 percent, the United States with 14 percent, the European Union with 10 percent and India with 6 percent.
John Roach is a contributing writer for NBC News.