CO2 Emission Trends

“Since 1751 approximately 329 billion [metric] tons of carbon have been released to the atmosphere from the consumption of fossil fuels and cement production. Half of these emissions have occurred since the mid 1970s. The 2006 global fossil-fuel carbon emission estimate, 8230 million metric tons of carbon, represents an all-time high and a 3.2% increase from 2005.” CDIAC

This is the 1st in a series of posts on CO2 emissions, CO2′s fate in the atmosphere and the long term climate and ocean impacts of these emissions.

In this 1st post, I use  CDIAC  CO2 emission data to prepare a trend chart and CSV file showing annual global CO2 emissions for  the period 1751-2006. The data and R script are available on-line as a Google spreadsheet and Google document  so that interested readers can easily download CSV files of the data and generate analysis and charts on their own in Excel, R or any software that will accept a CSV file.


My masthead chart shows the monthly Mauna Loa atmospheric CO2 concentrations trends since 1959. Clearly, atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing.  In previous posts, I have analyzed long term temperature trends (here, here, here, here) and compared CO2 – temperature trends (here). As I continue my climate change learning journey, I want to take a look at CO2 emissions, what happens to those emissions in the environment and assess for myself whether I should be worried about CO2 emissions.

I will rely on – line data sources, generate charts & graphs of this actual data with R and limit my comments to the data and trends visible in my  charts & graphs. Readers are welcome to join me in this exercise and discuss, reproduce, correct or enhance my charts & graphs.  Comments on my posts are welcome, however, I will only accept comments on my charts & graphs, R scripts and/ or  statements that I make about the charts and graphs. Broader comments about climate change or  global warming will not be  accepted.

CO2 Emission Trend

The 1751 – 2006 global CO2 emission trend chart, using a logarithmic Y axis scale, is shown below.

Figure 1: CO2 Emissions (1751-2006) - Log Scale

Figure 1: CO2 Emissions (1751-2006) - Log Scale

Obviously there has been an incredible increase in CO2 emissions as global population has increased and the use of fossil fuels for transportation, heating and power generation has expanded. Here’s a recap of the CDIAC data.


Access to CO2 Emission Data File and R Script

I’ve converted CDIAC’s original global CO2 emissions  ASCII file to a Google spreadsheet ( link) that readers can export as a CSV file and import directly into Excel or other software.

Here’s the link to my R script that reads the CDIAC data file, produces the plots and CSV file.

Looking For Comments

I’m looking for comments in several areas:

  1. Thoughts on use of Google spreadsheets to provide user access to climate data files
  2. Thoughts on use of Google documents to provide access to my R script
  3. Comment of data visualization of CO2 emission trends
  4. Thoughts / suggestions/ improvements to my R script

Next Step

My next post will compare the CO2 emissions with atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

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4 responses to “CO2 Emission Trends

  1. FYI: Don’t forget to include the land-use deforestation data! It only goes back to 1850 in CDIAC, but it dominates the 19th century emission history. You can’t understand historical concentrations without including these emissions…


  2. Here are some graphs that I have created for an article about cumulative emissions that has been running on my blog these last few weeks. Source data is from CDIAC.

    I would be interested to receive any comments you might have on this data set – also any ideas on illustrating the ranges of uncertainty associated with reported values, particularly those for change of land use.

    It is also a shame that NASA’s OCO satellite failed at launch – this would be generating some really useful observational data by now.

  3. Pingback: CO2: Emissions & Changes in Atmospheric Levels « Charts & Graphs with R

  4. The use of Google spreadheets is a great idea to share the data. If you want users to get their own copy of the spreadsheet, you can upload it as a template at Or if you are just looking to publish the data for others to see, you can go to Share–> Publish as a web page. This will be a fast loading page you can embed anywhere….

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