CO2 Trend Part I
From 2013 to 2015, the world has had an annual economic growth of around 2.5%. Despite this, the carbon budget for 2016 shows that the world’s total CO 2 emissions have been almost stable over the same period. This gives hope that sustainable development is possible.
- What is the carbon budget an overview of?
- How have CO2 emissions developed in recent years?
- Which countries are most decisive for how the carbon budget develops?
- How serious is the climate situation?
The term ” sustainable development ” was launched in 1987 by a UN commission headed by Gro Harlem Brundtland (Brundtland Commission). Since then, sustainable development has been the goal and basis of the UN’s many climate conferences , including in Rio de Janeiro , Kyoto and Paris. 30 years after the Brundtland Commission, the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are stabilizing and international agreements on emission reductions may seem to be leading the way. But is it going fast enough? Hopefully, CO 2 emissions will be reduced without the world experiencing an economic downturn with all the problems this will cause.
2: Why so concerned about CO2?
Together with methane and water vapor, i.e. clouds, keeps CO 2 back a large portion of the solar energy striking the earth (short-wave radiation from entering, while long-wave heat radiation can not escape again). This is the so-called greenhouse effect . These gases retain heat very efficiently. Despite being below 0.04% of the air, they help to increase the global average temperature by over 30 degrees! Without the greenhouse effect, the average temperature on Earth would be around -18 degrees Celsius, instead of a comfortable 15 degrees.
Of the three gases, CO 2 is the most important , but why? Both methane and water in the form of clouds hold back more heat than carbon dioxide, but the effect over time is smaller. This is because methane breaks down in the atmosphere over the course of 100 years, and clouds are known to tend to condense and fall down like rain and snow. In addition, clouds also have an opposite, cooling effect.
CO 2 , on the other hand, has only a warming effect ; it is a gas that does not easily disappear from the atmosphere. When we extract oil, coal and gas from the earth’s crust and burn them, the carbon remains in the atmosphere in the form of CO 2 , or it is dissolved in and taken up in the ocean. In the atmosphere, it amplifies the greenhouse effect. In the ocean, it reduces the pH value so that animals and plants there get drastically changed, acidified living conditions.
3: How serious are our emissions?
According to CALCULATORINC, both in Greenland in the Arctic and in the Antarctic, the ice has dominated for many hundreds of thousands of years. When the snow here has been packed into ice, air has been trapped in small bubbles. Thus, today we can measure the composition of gases in the atmosphere as it was many hundreds of thousands of years ago. Such measurements show that the amount of CO 2 in the air has varied between 200 and 300 ppm (parts per million). The time up to today has been dominated by fluctuations between warm periods and ice ages. These oscillations have been governed by the sun’s – natural – variations.
In times where the sun has had a maximum of energy radiation, ice and permafrost have melted and released methane and carbon dioxide. This has strengthened the greenhouse effect and provided a warm climate. During periods when solar radiation has been at a minimum, the carbon has again been trapped in the earth’s crust. A less intense solar radiation has then – together with a less efficient greenhouse effect – ensured that the ice has been able to build up around the poles. In addition, this cooling has been amplified by the fact that ice reflects much of the sunlight (solar energy) back into space before it is “captured by” the greenhouse gases.
In early autumn 2015 – it is in the autumn that atmospheric CO 2 is at its lowest after spring and summer in the northern hemisphere – the particle density was measured at over 400 ppm. It is the highest concentration of carbon dioxide in at least 800,000 years!
But why do we not have such high temperatures now as in previous warm periods, between the earlier ice ages? This is due to a slowness , lag, in the system. We have been emitting carbon from the long layers of the earth’s crust (fossil resources) for a few hundred years, but at an accelerating pace. The physical, chemical and not least the biological processes that make up the earth system take time . Not much energy has yet come from the sun that we have reached the ceiling for how high the average temperature we can get from having 400 ppm CO 2 in the atmosphere. In other words: The temperature will continue to rise even if we cut all emissions during the day.