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November 30, 2006

CO2 Emissions Accelerating Sharply Environment

Not only is humanity failing to curtail CO2 emissions, the rate of growth of emissions is actually accelerating — sharply. BBC (via CommonDreams):

The rise in humanity's emissions of carbon dioxide has accelerated sharply, according to a new analysis.

The Global Carbon Project says that emissions were rising by less than 1% annually up to the year 2000, but are now rising at 2.5% per year.

It says the acceleration comes mainly from a rise in charcoal consumption and a lack of new energy efficiency gains.

The global research network released its latest analysis at a scientific meeting in Australia.

Dr Mike Rapauch of the Australian government's research organisation CSIRO, who co-chairs the Global Carbon Project, told delegates that 7.9 billion tonnes (gigatonnes, Gt) of carbon passed into the atmosphere last year. In 2000, the figure was 6.8Gt.

"From 2000 to 2005, the growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions was more than 2.5% per year, whereas in the 1990s it was less than 1% per year," he said.

The finding parallels figures released earlier this month by the World Meteorological Organization showing that the rise in atmospheric concentrations of CO2 had accelerated in the last few years. [...]

"There has been a change in the trend regarding fossil fuel intensity, which is basically the amount of carbon you need to burn for a given unit of wealth," explained Corinne Le Quere, a Global Carbon Project member who holds posts at the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey.

"From about 1970 the intensity decreased — we became more efficient at using energy — but we've been getting slightly worse since the year 2000," she told the BBC News website.

"The other trend is that as oil becomes more expensive, we're seeing a switch from oil burning to charcoal which is more polluting in terms of carbon." [...]

How emissions will change over time is one of the factors considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body responsible for collating and analysing climate data for the global community.

"At these rates, it certainly sounds like we'll end up towards the high end of the emission scenarios considered by the IPCC," commented Myles Allen from Oxford University, one of Britain's leading climate modellers.

The "high end" of IPCC projections implies a rise in global temperature approaching 5.8C between 1990 and the end of this century.

"We need to think about radical alternatives to the belt-tightening approach," said Professor Allen.

"At the moment, the assumption is we will solve the problem by controlling demand; but regulating at the point of use is clearly not working." [Emphasis added]

Another in the long parade of stories telling us that what used to be thought of as worst-case global warming projections may actually turn out to be, if anything, conservative. It's all happening faster, the numbers bigger, than anyone expected.

An optimistic view has it that as humanity learns more about the dangers facing us, we'll do the rational thing and take measures to forestall disaster. But it's not happening. Instead, everybody's focused on the short run, taking the path of least resistance, trying to make it through today. In the best of all possible worlds, rising oil prices and the prospects of peak oil and global warming would motivate humanity to move away from using fossil fuels altogether. But the path of least resistance is to just burn coal instead of oil, so that's what will happen.

The runaway train hurtles cliffward. If you're not scared yet, maybe you should be.

Posted by Jonathan at November 30, 2006 06:14 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Comments

Man burned a hole in the ozone layer. Luckily, we caught that and took action.

We use to think the freezing point of water was a constant. Then we discovered that water placed under immense pressure has a higher freezing point. It's only a couple of degrees higher than water not under pressure; however this plays a significant role in the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. As it turns out the tremendous weight of the ice sheet is enough to increase the freezing point of water trapped between it and the bedrock below, in effect speeding up the melting of the ice sheet.

Then we started the Human Genome Project. What an incredibly smart species we are, indeed. We're going to document the instruction book to human life allowing us to cure all diseases, and while we're at it, why not make us all look pretty (as some have suggested). Damn we are a smart bunch! But wait, it turns out this is just the first chapter in the book because we’re learning genes are not as simple as just their DNA sequencing. With the discovery of epigenetics we have learned genes have on/off switches. This helped answer some questions scientists had, but at the same time made genetics far more complex.

Of all there is to know, we've only learned a fraction of it. Man is directly responsible for burning a whole in the ozone layer, and now we're adding CO2 to the atmosphere at a rate much faster then nature would on its own. We seem to only think in terms of 'changing' the chemical composition of the atmosphere and more importantly what affects that will have on our planet. But I keep wondering if it isn't possible for us to somehow destroy the atmosphere.

What's most disturbing is I can't find anyone in the scientific community asking this question.

Posted by: Jeff at November 30, 2006 10:39 PM