For years, slow emissions declines in the West have been swamped by rising emissions in the East, and the trend continued in 2013. China's emissions grew 4.2 percent and India's 5.1 percent. Both countries have been constructing coal-burning power plants at a breakneck pace.
China is spending heavily on renewable and nuclear energy as it tries to slow the growth of coal, but despite those efforts it has become by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Its emissions of 10 billion tons a year of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels and cement manufacturing are almost twice those of the United States, though emissions per person are still far higher in the United States.
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"China is really in a tough position," Dr. Peters said. "Emissions have grown so much in the last 10 years or so that no matter how you look at China, it has an immense task."
In a separate report in early September, the World Meteorological Organization said the level of carbon dioxide in the air in 2013 was 42 percent above the level that prevailed before the Industrial Revolution. Other important greenhouse gases have gone up as well, with methane increasing 153 percent from the preindustrial level and nitrous oxide by 21 percent.
The increase of these and other gases from human activity has caused the planet to warm by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the preindustrial era, which is causing land ice to melt all over the world. The oceans are rising at what appears to be an accelerating pace, and heat waves and torrential rains are intensifying.
The nations of the world have agreed to try to limit the warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which would require that emissions slow down and then largely stop in the next 30 years or so. If they continue on their present course through the century, scientists say, the earth could warm by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit above the preindustrial level, which would likely be incompatible with human civilization in its current form.