Tag Archives: carbon dioxide

When will China reverse its carbon emissions?

13 Nov

From Tyler Cowen, note the last  paragraph below, which I’ve bolded:

Fourth, if you look at the history of air pollution, countries clean up the most visible and also the most domestically dangerous problems first, and often decades before solving the tougher issues. For China that highly visible, deadly pollutant would be Total Particulate Matter, which kills people in a rather direct way, and in large numbers, and is also relatively easy to take care of. (Mexico for instance has been getting that one under control for some time now.) The Chinese people (and government) are much more worried about TPM than about carbon emissions, which is seen as something foreigners complain about. Yet TPM is still getting worse in China, and if it is (possibly) flat-lining this year that is only because of the economic slowdown, not because of better policy.

When will China cap carbon emissions? “Fix TPM and get back to me in twenty years” is still probably an underestimate. Don’t forget that by best estimates CO2 emissions were up last year in China by more than four percent. How many wealthier countries have made real progress on carbon emissions? Even Denmark has simply flattened them out, not pulled them back.

The Chinese really are making a big and genuine effort when it comes to renewables, it is just that such an effort is dwarfed by the problems mentioned above.

The media coverage I have seen of the U.S.-China emissions “deal” has not been exactly forthcoming in presenting these rather basic points. It’s almost as if no one studies the history of air pollution anymore.

I understand why a lot of reporters want to “clutch at straws” — it’s good for both clicks and the conscience — but a dose of realism is required as well. The announced deal is little more than a well-timed, well-orchestrated press release.

via When will China reverse its carbon emissions?.

Three Numbers in Global Climate Roulette

19 Jul

Bill McKibben, Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, Rolling Stone.

First number: 2 degrees Celsius. Some sort of vague international consensus has been reached that we have to keep the rise in annual average temperature below 2 degrees C. That number dates to 1995 and the average has gone up 0.8 degrees C. since then. Some experts think 2 degrees is too much; 1 degree would be much safer.

Second number: 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide: “Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees.”

Third number: 2,795 gigatons of CO2: That’s how much CO2 will be released when we burn all the fossil-fuels in existing proven reserves. Notice that it’s almost five times the “allowable”limit, which itself may be too high.

Are we cooked?

Which is exactly why this new number, 2,795 gigatons, is such a big deal. Think of two degrees Celsius as the legal drinking limit – equivalent to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level below which you might get away with driving home. The 565 gigatons is how many drinks you could have and still stay below that limit – the six beers, say, you might consume in an evening. And the 2,795 gigatons? That’s the three 12-packs the fossil-fuel industry has on the table, already opened and ready to pour.

We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We’d have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.

Is it too much to say that the fossil-fuel industry is evil?

Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. “Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices,” says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work on a book about the climate crisis. “But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.”

On Not Reaching Carbon Goals – NYTimes.com

11 Jun

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions by enough to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is “still within reach,’’ the International Energy Agency reported on Monday, but at the moment, trends in energy use are running in the wrong direction.

In the latest version of Energy Technology Perspectives, a report issued biennially by the agency, it said the technology to achieve that goal is available. But as Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the agency, put it, “we’re not using it.’’ Since the agency published its first Energy Technology Perspectives in 2006, the evidence of climate change has only grown stronger, she said, but “if anything, it has fallen further down the political agenda.’’

via On Not Reaching Carbon Goals – NYTimes.com.

Can saving the Amazon save the planet? – GlobalPost – Salon.com

1 Feb

Some 20 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions now come from deforestation, especially in the lush, green band of tropical rainforest that circles the earth.

That is more than from global transport.

So representatives from member states involved in UN climate negotiations are attempting to hammer out a way to make it more profitable to protect forests than destroy them.

By providing cash for maintaining healthy forests, they hope to undermine the economic imperative for poor countries or individuals to cut down trees for timber, to free land for agriculture, or to make way for roads, housing and other infrastructure.

The idea, known as reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, or REDD, will be included in the successor to the Kyoto protocol, which is now the only international treaty aimed at climate change.

via Can saving the Amazon save the planet? – GlobalPost – Salon.com.

With Deaths of Forests, a Loss of Crucial Climate Protectors – NYTimes.com

2 Oct

Forests are dying all over the world in one way or another. The effects could be disastrous.

Scientists say the future habitability of the Earth might well depend on the answer. For, while a majority of the world’s people now live in cities, they depend more than ever on forests, in a way that few of them understand.

Scientists have figured out — with the precise numbers deduced only recently — that forests have been absorbing more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide that people are putting into the air by burning fossil fuels and other activities. It is an amount so large that trees are effectively absorbing the emissions from all the world’s cars and trucks.

Without that disposal service, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be rising faster. The gas traps heat from the sun, and human emissions are causing the planet to warm.

via With Deaths of Forests, a Loss of Crucial Climate Protectors – NYTimes.com.