SocraticGadfly: #CO2: 2010 worst year ever

December 04, 2011

#CO2: 2010 worst year ever

Carbon-dioxide emissions rose 5.9 percent last year, the worst recorded jump on record. And, we're likely not in for great news in future years:
The researchers said the high growth rate reflected a bounce-back from the 1.4 percent drop in emissions in 2009, the year the recession had its biggest impact.
They do not expect the extraordinary growth to persist, but do expect emissions to return to something closer to the 3 percent yearly growth of the last decade, still a worrisome figure that signifies little progress in limiting greenhouse gases. The growth rate in the 1990s was closer to 1 percent yearly.

The combustion of coal represented more than half of the growth in emissions, the report found. 
If we connect the dots on paragraphs two and three, it's clear that China, followed by India, will fuel the surge in CO2 emissions in general and coal-generated CO2 in particular. Frankly, I'd be surprised (assuming the usual blather-and-inaction results at Durban, South Africa) if we hold that to just 3 percent over the next decade.

And, no the West is not simon pure:
On the surface, the figures of recent years suggest that wealthy countries have made headway in stabilizing their emissions. But Dr. Peters pointed out that in a sense, the rich countries have simply exported some of them.
The fast rise in developing countries has been caused to a large extent by the growth of energy-intensive manufacturing industries that make goods that rich countries import. “All that has changed is the location in which the emissions are being produced,” Dr. Peters said. 
And, with that exporting, let's not forget the carbon dioxide emissions costs of shipping, too.

Although Americans cringe at the idea, our one hope may be for oil to get back to or above its 2008 high of $147 a barrel, and stay there, if that doesn't totally wreck the world economy. Folks like Walmart and its various suppliers have indicated that oil prices that high would put enough of a burden on shipping costs that a lot of production would have to be relocated to the U.S. to be profitable.

It's an even "tougher" version of what James Hanson said about how we absolutely need to get away from coal-fired power plants in the future. We're at least moving in that direction. Such oil prices, by lessening Chinese manufacturing, would idle some other coal-fired electricity.

Politically, there's theoretically one other hope. The U.S. imposes carbon taxes internally, which then gives it the legal right to impose carbon tariffs externally. But, don't hold your breath over that.

We need to have something, though. As Nature Geoscience shows, including with plenty of pretty pictures, the evidence continues to mount for both global warming and the anthropogenic cause of it.

Beyond the "feedback loops" in general, of a warming climate putting more water vapor, a greenhouse gas itself, in the atmosphere, and causing permafrost to release methane, yet another greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, there's other feedback loops.

For example, in the U.S., with the shift of more population to the hot, long summer world of the Sunbelt, we're talking more and more air conditioning use. That, in turn creates urban heat islands, which create a microclimate additional feedback loop.

Plus, in the Southwest, we're headed toward drier as well as hotter. That means energy for desalinization plants, deeper wells, and reduced hydroelectric power.

Now, it is true that the atmosphere may not be quite as sensitive to CO2 as previously feared. That said, other than being on the lookout for wingnuts claiming this is more reason to reject "the cult of global warming" (actually, it's just the opposite, as it shows climate scientists at their best), it's important to remember a few other things:
A. The difference between a 5F and 7F warming over, say, 100 years, isn't enough to use this as an excuse for inaction as normal;
B. This study does nothing to look at how current warming is starting to force methane out of permafrost;
C. This study does nothing to look at how modern pollutants like, say, nitrogen oxides, may contribute to the problem.

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