CO2’s rate of increase in the atmosphere has ACCELERATED since posting back in 2014 about CO2 being the planet’s thermostat. Translation, the Earth will warm faster and it will be warmer when it finally reaches a new state of balance between energy received from the sun, and energy radiated back out to space. Yes, there has been acknowledgement of a problem. The Paris Agreement of 2015 set guidelines internationally, but elections since have reduced support from the USA, the largest historical contributor to atmospheric CO2.
Good news is that human emissions of CO2 have recently leveled off. The bad news is that the warming already done has raised the rate of biomass decomposition in Northern latitude soils formerly cooler or frozen. Overall, the growth rate of CO2 is still accelerating. Besides soils composting more actively, the loss of forest and oceanic health is slowing the rates at which they had once been able to absorb/cycle the CO2 humans generate.
Look to the sidebar for a graphic from “CO2 Earth” for year to year numbers. The 280ppm of the preindustrial planet reached 400ppm in 2015 and is now racing toward higher records. The planet is already amplifying what we’re doing to our insulating layer of atmosphere. Delay in action assures the mitigation efforts will need to be ever more drastic to tame the warming now underway.
NASA’s New Global 3D View of CO2
A new supercomputer project reveals how carbon dioxide moves around the globe. Combining data from the OCO-2 satellite with a high-resolution weather model gives an unprecedented 3D view of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. This advanced view is a step toward answering critical questions about carbon dioxide and Earth’s climate future.
My own takeaway impression of the video is that the planet looks to be on fire. Considering the consequences being generated by so much added heat-trapping insulation regionally over the northern latitudes, is it any wonder that the Arctic is melting away, year after year?
How does this relate to the 1WOW school program?
Look through the climate change blog posts and it becomes clear conflict is poised to grow. As the planet warms, food availability will fail, poorer nations and the poorer people within nations will suffer. Domestic strife will ignite international strife. The likely path ahead is apocalyptic, with only a question as to which of the horsemen will kill more people – war, famine or disease? IF there is to be an avoidance of mass extinction by late century or mid-next century, it will require mature, level-headed leadership. Continuing current politics to determine who sets the rules for accessing societal benefits ignores the fact that Nature’s laws of Chemistry and Physics are not negotiable.
What good is health care in the face of societal collapse, or money, once nation states cease to be functional? The debates of most nations today have some validity as to reducing the rates of consumption by flattening the degree of societal inequality. Flattening of inequality though is only a short term fix so long as population is at current record high levels, but it may supply needed time to shift societal priorities and develop technology to sequester effectively the many gigatons of carbon we’ve released into the atmosphere.
“Business As Usual” (BAU) forecasting of energy needs for economic growth As shown in this forecast of growth through 2040 is bleak indeed. While the concentration of CO2 needs to be reduced, world business and political leaders continue to forecast (and develop infrastructure) to deliver fossil fuels at increased annual rates. Why?
The answer gets into human psychology, extremely well explained in this TED video. CO2 generated locally marginally adds to a slowly growing global problem, but the benefits of the energy generated are quicker and primarily local. Divisions between people and the desire to maximize benefits for ones own tribe, company, nation usually override the need to act for the good of everyone.
CO2 embedded in Trade
Even the way in which carbon is counted causes disagreements. The pie-charts at the top of the page imply that the nation of China is the largest current generator of CO2. Yet money and international trade have given us a situation where Europe and the USA have essentially exported the pollution caused by the manufacture of goods they consume. How can such trends be slowed?
That answer exists. It requires that CO2 costs be assessed at the point of extraction from a well or mine. The costs would be passed along to the energy customers, who would raise their prices to recover the costs of products made. This process of rolling costs through
to the ultimate consumer would be thwarted at international borders unless tariffs were assessed to equate goods from non-participating nations to goods made domestically. If only a few of the largest importing nations initiated such a plan, all other nations would quickly join in so as to avoid the tariffs and to keep the energy taxes from their mines and wells.
The concept of a Carbon Tax is not new. It has been proposed in great detail by people such as former NASA scientist James Hansen, Political leaders such as Bernie Sanders, and endorsed by former US Treasury Secretaries and many energy industrial leaders. Discussing those proposals and the remaining huge task of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere before it leads to more planetary amplifications of the problem – that will need to be covered in future posts.