11 wonktastic charts that will help you understand climate change


Every year a disparate collection of 88 wonks from 68 organisation in 12 countries work tirelessly to produce the Global Carbon Budget.

I think of it as a high powered pictured book alternative for anyone who can’t stomach the IPCC’s summary for policy makers (or just wants the data).

Here are 11 of the most thought provoking charts from this years report:

1) Carbon emissions are still going up


Another 2.3% in 2013 with projections that it will rise a further 2.5% in 2014.

2) Coal is the major source of growth


Coal was responsible for 59% of emissions growth in 2013, oil was 18%, gas 10%, and cement 12%.

 3) China’s emissions just keep going (and going)


Most emissions growth occurred in China.  In per capita terms its terrestrial emissions now exceed Europe

4) But in historical terms the US and EU still dominate


Over the 1870-2013 periods cumalative emissions from the major emitters were the USA (26%), EU28 (23%), China (11%), and India (3%).

5) And China emits a lot making goods for the EU and US


The EU and US have outsourced significant industrial emissions overseas, particularly to China.

6) At this rate the 2C carbon budget will be blown in decades


If emissions continue to grow we will blow through the total 2°C carbon budget in before 2040.

7) If we keep this up its going to get really hot


Our current emissions growth is on the pathway that expects the world to warm by 3.2°C to 5.4°C by the end of the century.

8) We need to keep most fossil fuels in ground


To have a chance at 2C around 2/3 of current reserves need to stay in the earth.

9) Mitigation needs to occur at unprecedented rates

The best historical mitigation rates are about 4% during European nuclear switches.  So these look unlikely to say the least.

10) Declining deforestation is the only success story


Land use emission have declined since 1990s (the spike is the Indonesian peat fires).

11) And the ocean and terrestrial sinks


The ocean and land sinks continue to soak up an incredible amount of carbon as fertilization trumps saturation.  Without them atmospheric CO2 would already be up around 540ppm (its currently 397).

Without them it would probably be 2C warmer already.


  • adam_s_0625

    All of the graphs (correctly) show that CO2 is rising, and that China represents the majority of the increase in coal burning. What is NOT shown is that atmospheric temp is not following suit, in stunning opposition to the IPCC average model prediction. Global warming (actually atmospheric warming) was, for many decades, tied directly to the increase in CO2 (attributed mostly to fossil fuel burning). Now that this hypothesis has been disproved (by empirical data), pro-CAGW scientists have had to make major revisions to their thinking of how the biosphere operates. The public still awaits empirical data showing that any new hypothesis has scientific traction.

    The 2C increase in temp, implied in the article as a point of concern, is in reality nothing more than a swag by the UEA. It has no basis in theory, and certainly no basis in fact.

    “The 2 deg C limit is talked about by a lot within Europe. It is never defined though what it means. Is it 2 deg C for the globe or for Europe? Also when is/was the base against which the 2 deg C is calculated from? I know you don’t know the answer, but I don’t either! I think it is plucked out of thin air.” — Phil Jones, email to Christian Kremer, 06Sept2007

    A number of new studies are showing that the atmospheric sensitivity to CO2 is much smaller than has been previously defined. And given that the response to CO2 is logarithmic, the chances of CO2 being the actual cause of catastrophic warming in the future, are rather small.

    • Lindsay Wilson

      I do hope that you are right about lower sensitivity, but for every study that your read indicating ECS may be lower, there seems to be another one indicating it is slightly higher. (Note the former always get more coverage as per Otto) Transient climate response is certainly more fiercely debated as the short term mixing of the ocean is so important. And speaking of the ocean once you look at the build up of heat in the ocean it is pretty clear where the heat is going currently. The 2C is widely understood to be the land ocean surface warming above pre-industrial. Naturally 2C of warming would imply more than double that at the poles.

      • adam_s_0625

        @Lindsay – Thank you for the thoughtful and civil comment.

        Sensitivity (at least atmospheric sensitivity) can best be judged by comparing the empirical data versus the IPCC models. Only 2 models (to date) are close to the empirical data. Both of these have the lowest sensitivity built into model output. Further, the catastrophic nature of AGW hinged on any CO2-induced warming causing a large increase in water vapor. There has indeed been a modest increase in water vapor. But not NEARLY enough to support the hypothesis of a catastrophic future (due to AGW). And the fact that atmospheric temp has noticeably deviated from the 197x-200x trend, despite increases in both CO2 and H2O, shows that our understanding of how the biosphere incorporates these factors into its operation is indeed in its infancy.

        Agreed that the oceans are KEY to understanding how the biosphere operates. Skeptics have been saying this for a LOT longer than their alarmist counterparts. But ocean warming was already increasing BEFORE CO2 (attributed to fossil fuel burning) started its post-WWII increase. Ocean warming was altered very little by the increased atmospheric CO2 (attributed to human activity). This implies the warming is mostly, if not overwhelmingly, from natural sources.

        As Phil said (in the above comment), the 2C value was not well defined (and has not been clarified). That it is supposedly “well understood” cannot, then, be validated in any empirical sense. Agreed that as the global average increases, the poles warm faster than the equator. What this ultimately means for the future (to, say, 2100), though, is not well understood, either.

        • Lindsay Wilson

          To be honest I don’t take any of the papers on short term variation and TCR modelling that seriously. The complexity of the system is enormous, and we have dialed up forcings at an unprecedented rate. To my mind the best understanding of the system does not come for forward or even backward modelling but instead from the paleoclimate record. This points pretty solidly to a long terms ECS of up near 3C, which means very bad things for the future given the inertia in the system

    • Riggald Eux

      Climate is the 30 year average of weather.

      Climate change is, therefore, the change of the 30 year average of weather.

      The 30 year temperature average looks like this:


      • adam_s_0625

        The alarmist misinformation machine used (and continues to use) the 30 year (197x-200x) value because it showed strong correlation of CO2 rise to temp rise. A 30 year average, however, is an arbitrary (and convenient) choice. A 1000 year average is more appropriate. And when longer periods are applied, they show planetary cooling. But, you say, the man-made CO2 effects are near-term and unique. And, to that, I would say I could not agree more. Hansen was beating the drum of alarmism in 1988, only a dozen years past the upturn in temp (after a slight decline from 194x-197x with INCREASING CO2). Using your very own definition, he should not have been claiming disaster with just “weather data”. Thank you for clarifying that Hansen was being unscientific.

        However, if you accept that Hansen was justified in using less than 30 years of data, then the door is open. Indeed, Phil Jones (UEA) has stated that 17 years is a statistically valid time period. And, depending on the starting date, we have past or are a close to passing that time interval. In that interval, even alarmist scientists have acknowledged the pause in temp rise while CO2 has continued unabated. It is, therefore, no statistical anomaly or insignificant weather variation. It is validation that IPCC models cannot accurately predict future temp, and why alarmists have offered any number of theories (none with data) for the pause. Regardless, the 17 year value is also somewhat arbitrary. Anyone with an ounce of common sense could see the departure of empirical measurements from model predictions after just a handful of years. That it took the alarmist community 10+ years to acknowledge it shows how embedded the CO2 dogma is.

        if you choose not to use the common sense god gave you or refuse to use the scientific method in your approach to this issue, don’t expect much respect. Because without either of those, your arguing from a position of politics, or worse, emotion.

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