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Concordia study sheds light on global temperature increases

by Nathalie Laflamme January 28, 2014
Concordia study sheds light on global temperature increases

A new Concordia study has shown that the United States and China are part of the seven countries most to blame for global temperature increases.

The study, entitled “National Contributions to Observed Global Warming,” showed that the seven biggest contributors are the United States, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together, they account for 63 per cent of temperature increases up to 2005. The top 20 countries caused 82 per cent of the observed temperature increases. Canada ranked 10th on the list.

The study shows that the U.S. has caused nearly 20 per cent of observed global warming up to 2005.

“I was surprised that the US [sic] was so far ahead [2.5 times larger] than the next highest contributor,” said Dr. Damon Matthews, who lead the study and is an associate professor in the department of geography, planning and environment.

The study also looked at temperature increases in degrees Celsius per capita, or per person. For this part of the study, Canada ranked third after the United Kingdom and the United States. The United Kingdom caused an increase of temperature of 0.54 °C per billion people, while the United States caused an increase of 0.51 °C  per billion people. Canada caused an increase of 0.41 °C per billion people, which was equal to Russia’s per capita results.

Matthews said that he was not surprised by Canada’s results in the study, saying that the results were consistent with past studies.

Although China was the second highest on the list of contributors to total global warming, it was 19th on the list of per capita global warming, causing an increase of 0.05 °C per billion people.

“…The disparities that we have illustrated regarding differences in per-capita contributions to global warming underline the critical issues of international equity that are at the core of current efforts to decrease global greenhouse gas emissions,” the study stated.

The study went on to say that, although population and population growth has been consistently cited as being a cause for the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, it is “clear that population alone does not determine a country’s climate contribution, given the vast differences in per-capita energy and resource consumption between the developed and the developing world.”

The study also looked at what greenhouse gases (GHG) caused the most total global warming per geographical location and per population over a span of 200 years, ending in 2005.

The report concluded by saying that this study could help decide how much emissions different countries will be allowed to produce in the future.

“Our analysis has the potential to contribute to this discussion, by providing both an improved estimate of current contributions, as well as a relatively simple, yet robust method with which to calculate a given country’s current and potential future contribution to global warming,” the study stated.

The study took about three years to complete, and had started out as an honour student’s project. The team consisted of both graduate and undergraduate students in the department of geography, planning and environment.

“As a follow-up study, I would like to assess how these calculations could be used to set future emissions allowances for each country,” Matthews said.

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