Monday, December 3, 2012

New CO2 highs, "as if no one is listening"

We’re switching to LED lighting, driving more efficient cars and buying Energy Star appliances, but little efficiency gains alone aren’t doing the job.

The world’s longest continuous record of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels—taken since 1958 at Mauna Loa Observatory—shows CO2 levels still rocketing upward. 

(Image: In 1957, David Keeling began measuring carbon dioxide levels at Mauna Loa Observatory, a spot 11,150 feet up the side of a mountain in the Pacific, presumably physically above the zone affected by shorter-term human activities. His graph of the changing gas levels starts in 1958. Source: NOAA.)

The rocketing upward, as the graph shows, has not moderated in recent years in spite of our efficiency efforts.

The initial reading in March 1958 was 314 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere. With seasonal ups and downs, it has climbed to 394 last month.  That’s a 25 percent increase.  Here's the actual data from NOAA.

Where’s all that CO2 coming from? Despite our best-intentioned conservation and efficiency efforts, the globe continues to dump more of the gas into the atmosphere year after year. 

The 2012 record is expected to be a new high at 35.6 billion tonnes, according to a December 2012 report from the Global Carbon Project, at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia (UEA). It means we’re burning 58 percent more fossil fuel than in 1990.
Here is the abstract of their report, in the journal Nature Climate Change.

It’s frightening. The report says that it may be too late to reverse the climate change trend. 

That’s despite the fact that some industrialized countries are actually reducing some of their emissions. (see the graphs at the bottom ofthis supplementary information on the East Anglia report.) That reduction, though, could be more an impact of economic recession than actual efficiency and conservation.

Over here on Kaua`i, our electric utility, the Kaua`i Island Utility Cooperative, has also seen contracting electrical use—and thus reduced oil consumption.

Thus some of us are getting there, but as a planet, we’re not getting there nearly fast enough.

The world is discussing the issue at the United Nations climate talks in Doha, Quatar. The solution, if there is to be one, won’t be a few LEDs and hybrid cars, but rather, said U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres, "a complete transformation of the economic structure of the world."

The BBC quoted Corinne Le Quere, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research: “These latest figures come amidst climate talks in Doha, but with emissions continuing to grow, it's as if no-one is listening to the scientific community.”

An advocacy group for renewables, Oil Change International, notes that as we face this crisis, the industrialized world ironically continues to subsidize fossil fuels.

©Jan TenBruggencate 2012

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