The International Energy Agency brought some sobering news to the table in terms of global warming, stating that global emissions rose 3.2 percent in 2011. This figure only tells part of the story. It also shows that the balance is precarious at best. There are two major players that can tip it either way, China or the global economy.
According to the report, U.S. emissions increased modestly, however, they still fall short of making significant change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that most greenhouse gas emissions have increased. One exception is methane.
Between 1990 and 2009, emissions rose by 1.7 percent. Between 2009 and 2010, they increased by 1 percent. While these figures may not seem like much, bear in mind the changes which are afoot. The concern rests with global warming potential.
Natural Gas Development
The major focus of global emissions has been coal, simply because of its abundance. However, the stage is being set for natural gas to play more of a detrimental role despite the fact that is a relatively cleaner form of energy. According to the International Energy Agency, world demand for natural gas has the potential to rise more than 50 percent by 2035.
Without proper regulations, this increase in natural gas use also means a rise in methane emissions. This greenhouse has 21 times the global warming potential as carbon dioxide. Already, natural gas systems are the primary source of methane, overtaking agriculture.
The Global Factor
The increase in demand for natural gas is not confined to the United States. Worldwide, its use has increased dramatically, especially in Asia and the Middle East. Not surprisingly, the IEA also reported a 9.3 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions from China. It is unfortunate that if the United States made any headway, it is negated by the global factor.
The Economic Factor
The global economy may be the deciding factor. Its instability inadvertently fuels this increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Coal and natural gas demand have increased due in part to the fact that they are cheap, notwithstanding the environmental impacts.
Until the global economy can reach some level of stability, the trends are likely to continue. Alternative sources of clean energy cannot fix a volatile marketplace. Perhaps this is the starting point toward truly getting global warming in check.