World CO2 levels at record high

Posted: May 12th, 2008 by: h2

Well, any idea that a change from one state, expansion, aka ‘growth’, to one of contraction, would be smooth and relatively pain free is one you can probably get rid of right about now.

The Mauna Loa, Hawaii CO2 tracking station reports word CO2 levels at record highs.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached a record high, according to new figures that renew fears that climate change could begin to slide out of control.

Scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii say that CO2 levels in the atmosphere now stand at 387 parts per million (ppm), up almost 40% since the industrial revolution and the highest for at least the last 650,000 years.

The figures, published by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on its website, also confirm that carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, is accumulating in the atmosphere faster than expected. The annual mean growth rate for 2007 was 2.14ppm – the fourth year in the past six to see an annual rise greater than 2ppm. From 1970 to 2000, the concentration rose by about 1.5ppm each year, but since 2000 the annual rise has leapt to an average 2.1ppm.

Scientists say the shift could indicate that the Earth is losing its natural ability to soak up billions of tons of carbon each year. Climate models assume that about half our future emissions will be re-absorbed by forests and oceans, but the new figures confirm this may be too optimistic. If more of our carbon pollution stays in the atmosphere, it means emissions will have to be cut by more than currently projected to prevent dangerous levels of global warming.
The Guardian

Increased Coal Fired Power

In case you’re not clear on why this is happening, China is currently adding about 1 new coal fired electrical power plant per week, even though it’s barely able to supply them with coal as it is.

Unless China finds a way to clean up its coal plants and the thousands of factories that burn coal, pollution will soar both at home and abroad. The increase in global-warming gases from China’s coal use will probably exceed that for all industrialized countries combined over the next 25 years, surpassing by five times the reduction in such emissions that the Kyoto Protocol seeks.
[T]he carbon dioxide emanating from Chinese coal plants will last for decades, with a cumulative warming effect that will eventually overwhelm the cooling from sulfur and deliver another large kick to global warming, climate scientists say. A warmer climate could lead to rising sea levels, the spread of tropical diseases in previously temperate climes, crop failures in some regions and the extinction of many plant and animal species, especially those in polar or alpine areas.

Coal is indeed China’s double-edged sword — the new economy’s black gold and the fragile environment’s dark cloud.

Already, China uses more coal than the United States, the European Union and Japan combined. And it has increased coal consumption 14 percent in each of the past two years in the broadest industrialization ever. Every week to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens somewhere in China that is big enough to serve all the households in Dallas or San Diego.

To make matters worse, India is right behind China in stepping up its construction of coal-fired power plants — and has a population expected to outstrip China’s by 2030.

Aware of the country’s growing reliance on coal and of the dangers from burning so much of it, China’s leaders have vowed to improve the nation’s energy efficiency. No one thinks that effort will be enough. To make a big improvement in emissions of global-warming gases and other pollutants, the country must install the most modern equipment — equipment that for the time being must come from other nations.
New York Times, June 11, 2006

And this rapid expansion is having direct, and virtually immediate repercussions on the global coal supply chain, as China pushes this process to the very edge of what is possible. Notice that I do not use the word ‘sustainable’ here, since what China is doing with coal is no more sustainable than what the United States has tried to do with Oil.

The price China has been paying for its coal has been climbing since the end of last year. With the rising price of oil on the international market, the price of coal, which is generally seen as a substitute for oil, has also been rising. The price of coal for power generation imported from Indonesia has increased to $150 per ton. This has been the main cause for the soaring domestic coal prices.

The price of coal has been rising steadily and this trend has showed no sign of coming to a stop. According to statistic from the China Coal and Coke E-Marketplace, after coal prices first began rising in the domestic market around the end of February, coal prices in the three Northeastern provinces also began rising in the end of March. The rising prices have been due to the coal supply shortage., April 24,2008

Methane Rises with CO2 in a Deadly Circle

And it’s not just CO2 that’s up, methane is also up, and considering that methane is vastly more dangerous than CO2 when it promoting the conditions that lead to global warming, that’s very bad news.

The amount of two key greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere rose sharply in 2007, and carbon dioxide levels this year are literally off the chart, the U.S. government reported on Wednesday.

In its annual index of greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found atmospheric carbon dioxide, the primary driver of global climate change, rose by 0.6 percent, or 19 billion tonnes last year.

The amount of methane increased by 0.5 percent, or 27 million tonnes, after nearly a decade of little or no change, according preliminary figures to scientists at the government’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Colorado.

Methane’s greenhouse effect is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide’s, but there is far less of it in the atmosphere. Overall, methane has about half the climate impact of carbon dioxide.

The primary source of carbon dioxide is the burning of fossil fuels, which is increasing, with China now the world’s biggest emitter, said Pieter Tans, who studies greenhouse gases at the laboratory. The United States is second.

“It’s gloomy,” Tans said. “With carbon dioxide emissions, we’re on the wrong track, it’s obvious. And I’m also fully convinced that we’re in actually quite a dangerous situation for climate.”

The increase in methane emissions after years of little change may indicate that methane locked for thousands of years in frozen Arctic soil known as permafrost is being emitted into the atmosphere as the soil melts.

“What used to be in the deep freeze is now being taken out in the warming,” Tans said.
Carbon dioxide, methane up sharply in 2007-US govt, Reuters, Wed Apr 23, 2008

While China Burns More Coal, the Rest of the World Follows

Oh, and by the way, it’s not just the Chinese who are diving into coal big time.

At a time when the world’s top climate experts agree that carbon emissions must be rapidly reduced to hold down global warming, a leading Italian electricity producer, Enel, is converting its massive power plant here from oil to coal, the dirtiest fuel on earth.

Over the next five years, Italy will increase its reliance on coal to 33 percent from 14 percent. Power generated by Enel from coal will rise to 50 percent. And Italy is not alone in its return to coal.

Driven by rising demand, record high oil and natural gas prices, concerns over energy security and an aversion to nuclear energy, European countries are slated to build about 50 coal-fired plants over the next five years, plants that will be in use for the next five decades.

The fast-expanding developing economies of India and China, where coal remains a major fuel source for more than two billion people, have long been regarded as one of the biggest challenges to reducing carbon emissions.

But the return now to coal even in eco-conscious Europe is sowing real alarm among environmentalists who warn that it is setting the world on a disastrous trajectory that will make controlling global warming impossible. They are aghast at the renaissance of coal, a fuel more commonly associated with a sooty Dickens novel and which was on its way out just a decade ago.
International Herald Tribune, April 22, 2008

Heading Towards the Precipice

Basically what you are watching is a species that is so consumed with greed, desire to consume, satisfy whims, and which is so stupid, that it will literally destroy its ecosystem so it can switch lights off and on at will, pop bread into a toaster, plugin televisions, and soon even cars, to be entertained at will, all the while pretending to have some sort of eco-consciousness.

But after all, what is the real alternative? Without our current system, we simply cannot support the quantity of humanity we have subjected the planet’s finite ecosystem to.

I am reminded of the story of the reindeer being introduced to an island with no natural predators and finite food supplies.

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), introduced to St. Matthew Island in 1944, increased from 29 animals at that time to 6,000 in the summer of 1963 and underwent a crash die-off the following winter to less than 50 animals. In 1957, the body weight of the reindeer was found to exceed that of reindeer in domestic herds by 24 53 percent among females and 46 61 percent among males. The population also responded to the high quality and quantity of the forage on the island by increasing rapidly due to a high birth rate and low mortality. By 1963, the density of the reindeer on the island had reached 46.9 per square mile and ratios of fawns and yearlings to adult cows had dropped from 75 and 45 percent respectively, in 1957 to 60 and 26 percent in 1963. Average body weights had decreased from 1957 by 38 percent for adult females and 43 percent for adult males and were comparable to weights of reindeer in domestic herds. Lichens had been completely eliminated as a significant component of the winter diet. Sedges and grasses were expanding into sites previously occupied by lichens. In the late winter of 196364, in association with extreme snow accumulation, virtually the entire population of 6,000 reindeer died of starvation. With one known exception, all of the surviving reindeer (42 in 1966) were females. The pattern of reindeer population growth and die-off on St. Matthew Island has been observed on other island situations with introduced animals and is believed to be a product of the limited development of ecosystems and the associated deficiency of potential population-regulating factors on islands. Food supply, through its interaction with climatic factors, was the dominant population regulating mechanism for reindeer on St. Matthew Island.

This is the fate humanity is preparing for itself from what I can see. Please explain if I am seeing it wrong, I unfortunately fail to locate sufficient promising developments, though I do expect certain areas, regions, and populations, to do radically better than others, while other areas do much worse.

An Insider’s Realistic Scenario for the Future

If you think this view is too pessimistic, take a look at what a US coal industry leader thinks about this:

A lifelong leader in the coal and transportation industries, Charles T. “Charlie” Jones believes Americans might have to give up their free-traveling lifestyle, where some people drive 50 miles each way to work every day and never think twice about making other daily excursions.

When a company tugboat pushes coal barges down the Kanawha to electric power plants, it consumes about 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel for every 105 miles it travels. Today, that costs more than $16,000.

Jones believes coal has “great potential” to continue providing for our future energy needs.

The U.S. is also shipping more and more coal to Europe, because of the “soft dollar,” from ports like Newport News and Portsmouth on the Virginia coast.

“Spot [market coal] prices are so high and the Europeans will pay it.”

Jones also questions other recent proposals, including Gov. Joe Manchin’s plans for a network of billion-dollar coal liquefaction plants in West Virginia.

Jones believes no one yet knows how to make those plants work without generating “extreme” pollution.

Jones worries about the future.

“If these [oil] prices persist, our lifestyle will have to change, whether we like it or not. Is that good? I don’t think it will be very good.

Jones believes we must increase the number of coal-fired plants and nuclear plants in our nation.

“We have 103 nuclear plants today. I would increase that number dramatically. But today, it takes four-and-a-half years to get a permit for a new coal plant and between 12 to 15 years to get a permit for a nuclear plant.

An active member of the Nature Conservancy, Jones has long advocated improving environmental conditions in areas like the Kanawha River itself, which was heavily polluted a generation ago.

“We need to think about conservation,” he said.
The Charleston Gazette, April 27, 2008

I hope you notice the radical disconnects going on in this coal industry executive’s brain. That’s a perfect example of the disconnects global civilization is about to enter full on into.

The Future Does Not Look Good

Watch the trends, as oil prices rise, coal use will rise, exactly as this executive states, along with nuclear, which is just another finite resource (uranium) masquerading as a magic solution to our energy concerns. And as coal use rises, global warming will increase. There is no, I repeat, no, such thing currently as working CO2 sequestration, so when you read about new coal power, you are reading about increasing current rates of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is going to shoot the global warming situation into total emergency mode.

Once this kicks in, you’re going to start seeing major ecosystem failures. Water supplies will begin to fail, crops will fail, arid zones will become deserts, dry zones will become arid, and global food production will plummet as new and increasingly toxic pest, fungus, and bacterial infestations will begin to devastate the global corporate monocultures.

This is all already happening now, so I’m hardly stepping out on a limb by making such predictions.

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