Monday, April 22, 2013

Global CO2 Soars Past 400 ppm

Data from IEA
The International Energy Agency (IEA) released their 2012 edition of the CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion Statistics Highlights. World CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels have climbed past 396 ppm (parts per million) in the atmosphere and will hit 400 ppm in early spring before retreating slightly over the summer. Global CO2 emissions have grown by 47% since 1990 (based on IEA estimates for 2011). The CO2 levels on earth had averaged 280 ppm for hundreds of thousands of years, but in the past century they began rising. 

As the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere increase the warming produced by the greenhouse gas effect is strengthened. Computer modeling of the climate predicts that there will be feedbacks that significantly increase the impact from the increasing CO2. This is a feedback control loop on a global scale. Mankind produces carbon dioxide from power plants, transportation (cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships), heating, cement manufacture, deforestation, and breathing. Methane is produced from agriculture, livestock, mining, gas pipeline leaks and well heads, landfills, and sewage plants. Nitrous oxide is produced by fertilizers, fossil fuel combustion, animal waste, polluted waters, and chemical processes. CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and water vapor are the major greenhouse gases. The IEA tells us that 65% of the global greenhouse gas emissions by mankind are from the burning of fossil fuels for energy production and in industrialized nations 83% of all greenhouse gas emissions are from power generation, heating and cooling and transportation, but it is clear that both population and industrialization drive CO2 production.  
Data from IEA
The climate models show that there is nothing that we can do to stop global warming and climate change. Even if the concentration of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere were to stabilize at this level, global warming and sea level rising would continue for hundreds of years because of the time scales associated with climate and planetary feedback loops. In reality, the global emissions of CO2 will continue to rise for at least a generation. What is going to happen will happen. I will leave it to others to argue the case for the accuracy of climate models; however, both mankind and the earth itself will respond to changes in CO2 concentrations and temperature, but not before it becomes the pressing concern of the currently emerging nations. Though we constantly argue, discuss and meet, there is virtually nothing we can do to change what is going to happen in the next dozen generations. We can hope that mankind will move to a more sustainable course without the need for catastrophe to motivate us, but that will not change what is going to happen. 
Sorry, the scale is off.  I could not get 2011 to slide over. 
We need to face some tough realities. We cannot even stabilize the world CO2 emissions. As each region or county industrializes the world CO2 emissions have grown. World CO2 emissions are 146% of 1990 levels. Europe has stabilized their emissions and with effort under the Kyoto Treaty has decreased them 2.8% from 1990 levels. The U.S. seems to have finally begun its stabilization and reduction process in the past few years, but since 1990 has increased emissions by 9.5%. The far more populous emerging nations have blown past us in CO2 emissions. Asia (including India) has increased their CO2 emissions by 270% since 1990, and China has increased their CO2 emissions by 352% since 1990. Once the phenomenal growth in their economies that has driven the growth in CO2 emissions, slows down, the C02 emissions will stabilize at a higher level. As a county industrializes its emissions rise as Industrialization typically begins with coal fired power generation. Though coal fired power plants produce twice the CO2 as gas fired power plants they are the source of most power in China and India and still provide over 42% of power generation in the U.S. Nonetheless, except for the fall the Russian Federation, the CO2 emissions of a region or nation do not fall significantly. When populations get cars, homes with heating, air conditioning, on-demand water and power- become first world nations, they like to stay that way.

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