Carbon dating fossil fuels

London, July 22 (IANS) Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are threatening the effectiveness of the radiocarbon dating technique that has been used for decades to accurately calculate the age of a wide range of artefacts, says a new study.Burning fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, gives out a type of carbon into the atmosphere that confuses the trusted dating technique, BBC reported on Tuesday.Guan said he started the research when, about five years ago while doing a different paper, he discovered that official national energy statistics in China were about 20 percent lower than an aggregation of provincial level statistics.In trying to figure out the gap, he discovered that coal consumption was a major contributor, but the data were unreliable.Researchers found that the total energy consumption in China was 10 percent higher between 20 than reported in the country’s national statistics.But when coal quality was taken into account, there was an average 40 percent drop in overall emissions from power generation and a 45 percent fall in emissions from cement-making.

“This should make people reflect on how emissions statistics are calculated.” Ranping Song, who is leading the China Climate Program at the World Resources Institute, said the study highlights the need for China to strengthen its emissions data but said the government is already making efforts.

“China is still the largest emitter in the world,” Guan said.

“Our research doesn’t suggest China should do any less in terms of climate change mitigation, and it doesn’t change the fact that China is still the world’s largest emitter.” The study comes as leaders from nearly 200 nations are crafting a new global climate change accord that is expected to be signed in Paris in December.

Glen Peters, a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo and one of the nearly two dozen authors who worked on the study, called the 2.9 gigatons of overestimated carbon “not insignificant.” But he also cautioned that China’s emissions data will certainly be in for more changes.

He noted that China’s census, which was published after the study was completed, revises energy consumption upward again by about 10 percent and coal consumption by 14 percent—potentially wiping out emissions reductions.

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