About Us

CO2 Output Exceeds Level to Contain Warming, PwC Says (Update1)

Dec 1, 2009 - Alex Morales and Todd White - Bloomberg.com

Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- The world’s factories, vehicles and utilities are spewing too much carbon dioxide to keep the planet from excessive warming by 2050, PricewaterhouseCoopers said.

Discharges of the gas for energy purposes were 10 percent more in 2008 than the level needed to keep Earth’s temperature within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of pre- industrial times, the accounting company said today in a report.

The Big Four firm with staff in 151 nations called for the United Nations climate summit that starts in six days in Copenhagen to set “challenging” targets to reduce the greenhouse gas. CO2, the man-made gas mostly blamed for climate change, should be reduced at a steeper rate to make up lost ground, PwC said.

“We’re overdrawn,” John Hawksworth, lead author and head of the macroeconomics unit in London, said in a telephone interview. “We have to eliminate the annual deficit and then we have to pay back the debt.”

PwC’s carbon formula calls for fossil-fuel combustion during the first half of this century to add no more than 1.3 trillion tons of CO2 to the skies. That’s to limit the concentration in the atmosphere of the gas to 450 molecules per million molecules of air, a level UN scientists say is needed to stand a chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

Temperatures have already warmed by about 0.8 degrees since industrialization began in the 1800s. The 27-nation EU, the U.S. and major developing economies including China and India in July said they would aim to limit warming to 2 degrees to stave off the worst effects of rising temperatures.

Carbon ‘Budget’

PWC divided up what it called a carbon “budget” between the world’s countries, and developed a trajectory for each of the G20 group of major economies leading up to 2050. The economic output, political circumstances and potential for different forms of renewable power for each region were factored into the calculations, according to Hawksworth.

Of the G20, only Russia was on course for the 2000 to 2008 period, with India close to PWC’s ideal pathway and Saudi Arabia the furthest from target, the authors wrote.

“Most of the major countries, the U.S., the EU, China, are significantly above budget,” Hawksworth said.

The world now needs to cut the carbon emitted per dollar of economic output by about 3.5 percent a year by 2020 to get back to PWC’s pathway. Even then, the accumulated excess from 2000 to 2008 needs to be eliminated by 2050, Hawksworth said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Todd White in Madrid at twhite2@bloomberg.netAlex Morales in London at 7718 or amorales2@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: December 1, 2009 07:45 EST