Archive for November, 2012

China’s carbon emissions may keep rising until 2030 – report

China’s emissions may keep rising until 2030 – report
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FRANK McDONALD, Environment Editor

China’s greenhouse gas emissions – already the world’s highest – may not peak until 2030 and by then they would amount to half of the “carbon budget” needed to limit global warming at 2 degrees Celsius.

That’s the principal finding of a new report by the HSBC bank’s Climate Change Centre, released as delegates representing 194 countries meet in Doha, Qatar, for the UN’s 18th annual climate change conference.

Wai-Shin Chan and Nick Robins, head of centre, said they believed China “is still at least 18 years away from peak emissions”. Scientists have said emissions must peak in 2015 to achieve the two-degree target. “Our analysis shows that China’s emissions might not peak until 2030, but by then its annual emissions could amount to half of the carbon budget – what is allowed in order to stay within the 2°C warming target.”

Xie Zhenhua, China’s chief climate negotiator, recently suggested his country’s emissions could peak when its GDP per capita was about half of what developed countries’ emissions were when they peaked. “We estimate this to be around $20,000-$25,000 per capita,” the HSBC researchers said. “China is currently at $5,000 per capita. Based on our analysis … we estimate that Chinese GDP per capita could reach those levels around 2030.”

Analysing emissions

“We analyse China’s possible emissions in 2030 and find it could be at 12 gigatonnes – over 40 per cent more than current levels,” they said. This would be almost half of the allowed emissions under the International Energy Agency’s scenario for achieving the target.

Even if China could deliver larger reductions in the “carbon intensity” of its economy, emissions in 2030 could still be 10 gigatonnes – 40 per cent of the overall allowance envisaged under the scenario for capping global carbon emissions at 450 parts per million.

However, the HSBC researchers said they believed that China would continue to step up domestic climate change efforts, even if it wasn’t subject to legally binding absolute emissions reductions under any deal to renew the Kyoto Protocol, which expires on December 31st.

On a more positive note, deforestation rates in the Amazon – the world’s most important “carbon sink” – fell 27 per cent over the past year. An estimated 4,656sq km of forests were cleared compared to 6,418sq km the previous year.

Brazil’s environment minister, Izabella Teixeira, said: “I consider this fact one of the few positive environmental news stories the planet had this year.” She was instrumental in the adoption of a new forest code earlier this year, which is intended to limit deforestation in the Amazon.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has appointed high-level representatives to pursue a global solution for aviation emissions – coinciding with the passage of a Bill in the US Congress that would retaliate against the EU for including aviation in its emissions trading scheme.

“The White House now must endorse a global, market-based measure to rein in carbon pollution from aviation,” said Keya Chatterjee, director of international climate policy at the World Wildlife Fund. This is now being considered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The European Commission believes its decision to exempt the US and other foreign airlines using EU airports for a year (until January 1st, 2014) will “create a positive atmosphere” for the ICAO talks. The deferral was made under pressure from the US and its airlines.

CERN Stargate

Unexpected data from the Large Hadron Collider suggest the collisions may be producing a new type of matter
November 27th, 2012 in Physics / General Physics
Unexpected data from the Large Hadron Collider suggest the collisions may be producing a new type of matter


A proton collides with a lead nucleus, sending a shower of particles through the ALICE detector. The ATLAS, CMS and LHCb experiments also recorded collisions. Credit: Alice/CERN

Collisions between protons and lead ions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have produced surprising behavior in some of the particles created by the collisions. The new observation suggests the collisions may have produced a new type of matter known as color-glass condensate.

When beams of particles crash into each other at high speeds, the collisions yield hundreds of new particles, most of which fly away from the collision point at close to the speed of light. However, the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) team at the LHC found that in a sample of 2 million lead-proton collisions, some pairs of particles flew away from each other with their respective directions correlated.

“Somehow they fly at the same direction even though it’s not clear how they can communicate their direction with one another. That has surprised many people, including us,” says MIT physics professor Gunther Roland, whose group led the analysis of the collision data along with Wei Li, a former MIT postdoc who is now an assistant professor at Rice University.

A paper describing the unexpected findings will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Physical Review B and is now available on arXiv.

The MIT heavy-ion group, which includes Roland and MIT physics professors Bolek Wyslouch and Wit Busza, saw the same distinctive pattern in proton-proton collisions about two years ago. The same flight pattern is also seen when ions of lead or other heavy metals, such as gold and copper, collide with each other.

Those heavy-ion collisions produce a wave of quark gluon plasma, the hot soup of particles that existed for the first few millionths of a second after the Big Bang. In the collider, this wave sweeps some of the resulting particles in the same direction, accounting for the correlation in their flight paths.

It has been theorized that proton-proton collisions may produce a liquid-like wave of gluons, known as color-glass condensate. This dense swarm of gluons may also produce the unusual collision pattern seen in proton-lead collisions, says Raju Venugopalan, a senior scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, who was not involved in the current research.

Venugopalan and his former student Kevin Dusling theorized the existence of color-glass condensate shortly before the particle direction correlation was seen in proton-proton collisions. While protons at normal energy levels consist of three quarks, they tend to gain an accompanying cluster of gluons at higher energy levels. These gluons exist as both particles and waves, and their wave functions can be correlated with each other. This “quantum entanglement” explains how the particles that fly away from the collision can share information such as direction of flight path, Venugopalan says.

The correlation is “a very tiny effect, but it’s pointing to something very fundamental about how quarks and gluons are arranged spatially within a proton,” he says.

The CMS researchers originally set out to use the lead-proton collisions as a “reference system” for comparison with lead-lead collisions.

“You don’t expect quark gluon plasma effects” with lead-proton collisions, Roland says. “It was supposed to be sort of a reference run—a run in which you can study background effects and then subtract them from the effects that you see in lead-lead collisions.”

That run lasted only four hours, but in January, the CMS collaboration plans to do several weeks of lead-proton collisions, which should allow them to establish whether the collisions really are producing a liquid, Roland says. This should help narrow down the possible explanations and determine if the effects seen in proton-proton, lead-proton and lead-lead collisions are related.

Provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This story is republished courtesy of MIT News (, a popular site that covers news about MIT research, innovation and teaching.

“Unexpected data from the Large Hadron Collider suggest the collisions may be producing a new type of matter.” November 27th, 2012.

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