Global warming is mainly the result of CO2 levels rising in the Earth’s atmosphere. Both atmospheric CO2 and climate change are accelerating. Climate scientists say we have years, not decades, to stabilize CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
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@mospheric Post | Feb 7 2011
@mospheric Post is produced twice monthly by Pro Oxygen and distributed earthwide by CO2Now.org
* Monthly data for atmospheric CO2
* Accelerating rise of atmospheric CO2
* LEAD ARTICLE: Inter-generational ethics by The Daily Climate
* SPECIAL FOCUS: State of the Union Address by President Obama
* OVERALL: 88 recent articles, papers and reports From around the world. About our world.
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About @mospheric Post
Atmospheric CO2 data in this publication was released February 7, 2011 by NOAA-ESRL.
Data for periods within the last year are preliminary.
Monthly Data for Atmospheric CO2
Atmospheric CO2 parts per million
(the last January with CO2 < 350 ppm)
(50 years ago)
Accelerating Rise of Atmospheric CO2
January data only
Average Annual Increase* | Atmospheric CO2 parts per million
2.07 ppm per year
1.56 ppm per year
1.55 ppm per year
1.32 ppm per year
0.92 ppm per year
* Rates of change are calculated with Mauna Loa CO2 data released by NOAA-ESRL and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Of the many moral conundrums presented by climate change, the issue's intergenerational nature is perhaps trickiest to sort out. It boils down to this: We benefit mightily from burning cheap coal and will shoulder most of the expense associated with switching the global economy to low-carbon fuel sources. But our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will pay the price for our profligate energy ways and will reap the majority of the benefit of our shift to cleaner-burning fuels. So do we pay now, or let our kids deal?
Raffi & Children's Right to a Future
Embracing systems change is not about economic hardship or personal sacrifice; that, there’s plenty of. It’s about making the systemic changes that greatly improve quality of life for us, our neighbours, and our nations’ children. It’s something to get excited about.
This essay contains child, planet and science-friendly themes that may disturb the sleep of one’s conscience. Reader discretion is advised.
DAVOS, Switzerland — The world's current economic model is an environmental "global suicide pact" that will result in disaster if it isn't reformed, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon warned Friday. Ban said that political and business leaders need to embrace economic innovation in order to save the planet. "We need a revolution," the secretary-general of the U.N. told a panel at the World Economic Forum on how best to make the global economy sustainable. "Climate change is also showing us that the old model is more than obsolete."
. . . .
The panel moderator, columnist Thomas Friedman, said he hoped next year participants would return to the Swiss ski resort "and be able to say that a molecule of CO2 was actually affected by what we say and do here."
"Winning the Future"
2011 State of the Union (USA)
Excerpt from the State of the Union Address by President Barrack Obama:
“Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t even there yet. NASA didn’t exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.
This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
Already, we’re seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard. Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert’s words, “We reinvented ourselves.”
That’s what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time.
At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if -- I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.
Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all -- and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.”
“Here is the speech I’d love to see Obama give in a special session of Congress, perhaps on Earth Day.” By Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP) at Natural Capitalism Solutions in Boulder, Colorado.
The US energy secretary, Steven Chu, said the United States should attempt a “sunshot” by aiming to cut the cost of solar power by about three-quarters by the end of this decade, to $1 a watt for utility-scale projects. That would translate to an end-user price of about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour.
The world is in need of a more detailed transition document that lays out "how we are going to make a zero-carbon world function," says Kammen, an adviser to National Geographic's Great Energy Challenge initiative. He says much such work is now under way around the world.
International cooperation is everybody's business now. More than ever, the new reality underscores the need to create new bonds rather than new boundaries. We need new partnerships and alliances between public, private and civic life to tackle the problems that lie ahead.
~ Klaus Schwab
Founder, World Economic Forum
Excerpt from the Huffington Post blog by Klaus Schwab:
“As the economic center of gravity continues to move to the East and to the South, it will create political, economic and social shock waves in the process. And new global players -- in particular non-state actors -- are emerging at an unforeseen pace. This new fluid global power structure, marked by greater expressions of national interests, may lead countries to look primarily inward when attempting to solve any problem.
Looking ahead, the new reality will also be characterized by growing resource scarcity, and this has serious implications on energy, food and water security. The traditional borders between business and government will continue to erode as neither governments nor civil society alone can confront the complexity of global challenges that confront us.
All these dimensions of the new reality require first and foremost a common approach: basic values and shared norms to be turned into positive forces driving our future. It also requires a new sense of "global togetherness."
This is why we will focus on shared norms for the new reality as the theme at this year's Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Norms are vital for providing fundamental guidance to decision makers who operate in this new reality, which still lacks an effective formal and globalized legal infrastructure. They also provide the compass which can guide the decision-making of leaders and help ensure inclusive rather than exclusive outcomes. Without such shared norms, our efforts of reforming global systems will lack direction and, in the worst case, prove to be ineffective. Shared norms will also help to define a common vision for the future that we want to create.
Welcome to our planet, circa 2011 -- a planet that, like some unruly adolescent, has decided to test the boundaries. For two centuries now we've been burning coal and oil and gas and thus pouring carbon into the atmosphere; for two decades now we've been ignoring the increasingly impassioned pleas of scientists that this is a Bad Idea. And now we're getting pinched.
We already know we’re at CO2 levels that risk catastrophe if they are sustained or exceeded for any extended period of time. Hansen and Sato go further, saying we’re actually at or very near the highest temperatures of the current Holocene interglacial — the last 12,000 years of relatively stable climate that has made modern civilization possible. They make the remarkable finding that sea level rise will be highly nonlinear this century on our current business-as-usual [BAU] emissions that will result in global warming of the order of 3-6°C. “It is this scenario for which we assert that multi-meter sea level rise on the century time scale are not only possible, but almost dead certain.” While this conclusion takes them well outside of every other recent prediction of sea level rise (SLR), Hansen deserves to be listened to because he has been right longer than almost anyone else in the field (see “Right for three decades: 1981 Hansen study finds warming trend that could raise sea levels“).
To shift the global economy from fossil fuels to renewable energy will require the construction of wind, solar, nuclear, and other installations on a vast scale, significantly altering the face of the planet.
Executives of ECOtality Inc. believed that their battery charging technology would be a winner when plug-in electric vehicles began to hit the market. But the San Francisco firm needed financial support to stay in the game. That help came from China.
Rwanda and Iowa share a goal of developing clean, sustainable power. Iowa, now heavily dependent on coal, seeks a shift to wind, solar and biomass while ramping up energy efficiency.
In Rwanda, only 8 percent of households have electricity. It seeks to build its first nationwide grid largely with renewable energy sources, along with hopes to tap a bubble of methane under Lake Kivu.
Lux Research predicts a $20 billion spending surge in smart technologies in the next ten years, led by electric utilities and global grid giants like ABB, who are ready to cash in on the power revolution.
Asia's fourth-largest economy poured 80 percent of its $38 billion stimulus program into what it calls "green growth." Later, it committed 2 percent of its annual GDP over five years to the same national cause. Now, both rich and poor nations are turning to Seoul for lessons in green-powered development, and the new economic approach that was born out of financial mayhem.
Iceland generates 100% of its energy from renewable hydroelectric and geothermal sources, of which it has plenty. Melting glaciers feed hydro plants, and the same forces that fuel volcanoes drive geothermal power. Iceland wants a world that's keen to abandon fossil fuels to come and take advantage.
Now that 2010 has gone down as one of history's hottest years, many states are choosing not to wait for Congress to tackle global warming and are taking their own steps to slash greenhouse gas emissions. States are increasingly adopting stricter, energy-saving building codes, spending more money (partly federal) on energy efficiency and prodding big polluters to cut heat-trapping emissions.
Obama scored a landmark environmental victory in 2009 when his team wrestled the auto industry into agreement on a plan to ratchet down its greenhouse gas emissions. Now, top electric utility officials, lawmakers and others are talking about how to replicate the car companies’ deal for the nation’s power plants.
For years, China was seen as a major drag on global efforts to combat climate change because of its refusal to reduce emissions. Now the concern is not that China is moving too slowly but that it is rushing ahead so fast that clean-energy companies in the West will be left in the dust.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the U.S. Conference of Mayors that China is steaming ahead with production of everything from solar panels to airplanes and high-speed locomotives. Absent policy overhauls, Chu said, America would have a “real problem” keeping up with its Asian competitor.
U.S. and Chinese leaders Tuesday sought to reinforce the idea that the nations' energy and climate policies are traveling in the same direction ahead of President Hu Jintao's White House visit Wednesday.
The United Nations is likely to hold two extra meetings to discuss climate change in 2011 as the deadline to meet targets of Kyoto Protocol fast approaches in end-2012, a top United Nations official said on Wednesday.
USA | Why enforcement of clean air laws is necessary to protect us from the impacts of climate change, what the law permits EPA to do, and what actions the EPA has already taken to mitigate carbon pollution.
Dr. Dansgaard perfected ways to date icebound gases as well as to analyze acidity, dust and other influences on climatic conditions. Through his own ice-core analysis, Dr. Oeschger also discerned abrupt climate changes, which have become known as “Dansgaard-Oeschger events.” One finding was that temperatures and so-called greenhouse gases, which trap heat, move in lockstep. The discovery — that the chemical composition of oxygen revealed temperature — has been deemed Dr. Dansgaard’s most important.
Advocates for natural gas routinely assert that it produces 50 percent less greenhouse gases than coal and is a significant step toward a greener energy future….The EPA’s new analysis doubles its previous estimates for the amount of methane gas that leaks from loose pipe fittings and is vented from gas wells, drastically changing the picture of the nation’s emissions…When all these emissions are counted, gas may be as little as 25 percent cleaner than coal, or perhaps even less.
Global demand for natural gas, commonly used for heating homes and businesses and for generating electricity, will increase 2% a year through 2030, the Texas oil giant says, raising the 1.8% estimate it made last year.
A review panel has conditionally approved Alberta's ninth oil sands mine, giving its blessing to an application from French energy giant Total SA. The approval increases the area in Alberta that can be mined by 7 per cent, and places 20 conditions on the company, and 16 on the provincial government and its energy regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board.
ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company, expects global carbon emissions to rise by nearly 25% in the next 20 years, in effect dismissing hopes that runaway climate change can be arrested and massive loss of life prevented.
The Keystone pipeline expansion project would transport crude oil close to 1,700 miles from "oil sands" in Alberta to refineries in Texas. But the decision on whether to issue a permit to the project, opposed by environmental groups, rests with the State Department, which has little expertise in engineering or environmental matters.
In the battle for energy supremacy in Pennsylvania coal, wind, and solar power are the key combatants. Last week, the coal lobby gained what it considers a friend in the governor's mansion: Tom Corbett, a native of Western Pennsylvania, where coal still pays the bills in thousands of households.
The last time the British government instituted a substantial rationing program was 1940 – as the country mobilized for World War II. Today a report commissioned by the British parliament called for the rationing of fuel to help meet the government's carbon emission targets and prepare for future fossil fuel scarcity.
A new study says markets respond almost immediately when a company reports an event that could affect global climate change, with stock values responding the same day as the disclosure. “It really does appear to be a valuation factor,” says Paul Griffin, professor of management at University of California, Davis. “Greenhouse gas emissions are important to investors in assessing companies.”
Washington Post | Earth Networks to tally greenhouse gas emissions at 100 locations Billions of updates on temperature, wind and other weather conditions flood into Earth Networks each day from its global network of 8,000 sensors. Now the company is moving to create a network that will tally greenhouse gas emissions at 100 locations around the world.
AUSTRALIA'S climate change policies will lead greenhouse gas emissions to balloon out of control in the next few years, the federal government says in an annual report to the United Nations. Instead of the 5 to 25 per cent cut being offered by the government, the nation would pump out 24 per cent more carbon dioxide by 2020, the Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, said, using the data to make the case again for a price on carbon.
In a four-story test plant just behind a warehouse-like research building in North Austin, University of Texas researchers are hoping for a revolutionary breakthrough to the question of how to continue to burn coal without contributing to global warming.
Imagine: a country or an individual could get redress for a drought that destroyed farmland, for floods and storms that created an army of refugees, for rising seas that wiped a small island state off the map.
In the past three years, the number of climate-related lawsuits has ballooned, filling the void of political efforts in tackling greenhouse-gas emissions. Eyeing the money-spinning potential, some major commercial law firms now place climate-change litigation in their Internet shop window.
The world's largest tropical forest, the Amazon, experienced something rare last year — a drought. It wasn't the earth-cracking kind of drought that happens in the American Southwest or the Australian outback, but it did stunt or kill lots of trees. See this story on CNN.
Dalai Lake is shrinking. For years, the water level of northern China’s largest freshwater lake – lying on the Hulunbuir grasslands of Inner Mongolia, close to the borders with Mongolia and Russia – has been falling.
Some of Thailand’s most popular diving sites are now off limits to tourists: Thai officials that they were restricting access to seven marine national parks for up to a year to prevent further harm to coral reefs severely damaged by a long period of elevated sea temperatures last year.
The Foresight Report on Food and Farming Futures says the current system is unsustainable and will fail to end hunger unless radically redesigned. It is the first study across a range of disciplines deemed to have put such fears on a firm analytical footing. The report is the culmination of a two-year study, involving 400 experts from 35 countries.
"The pessimistic scenario shows that Bordeaux's climate, by 2050, will no longer favour Cabernet and Merlot," the backbone varietals of the region's red wines, said Jean-Pascal Goutouly, a researcher at the National Institute for Agricultural research (INRA). "We are currently on the most pessimistic curve -- that's the emergency," he told winemakers from some of the region's most prestigious chateaux.
An emerging reality in the Colorado River basin has scientists and water mangers concerned: Ever-increasing demand combined with drought - which may become more acute thanks to climate change - means the mis-match between supply and demand in an increasingly parched region will only grow more severe.
Regardless of whether the West's recent drought has a man-made component or not, computer modeling not reassuring about the future. It indicates that the Colorado River basin will become warmer and more arid in coming decades. In fact, this is one of the more robust findings shared among most of the climate models.
The early effects of global warming and other climate changes have helped send the populations of many local mountain species into a steep downward spiral, from which many experts say they will never recover.
It is hard to argue that anything above the Holocene maximum (of around 0.5 degrees above the pre-industrial temperature) can preserve a safe climate, and that we have already gone too far. The notion that 1.5C is a safe target is out the window, and even 1 degree looks like an unacceptably high risk.
We find that early-21st-century temperatures of Atlantic Water entering the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented over the past 2000 years and are presumably linked to the Arctic amplification of global warming.
For two winters running, an Arctic chill has descended on Europe, burying that continent in snow and ice. Last year in the United States, historic blizzards afflicted the mid-Atlantic region. This winter the deep South has endured unusual snowstorms and severe cold, and a frigid Northeast is bracing for what could shape into another major snowstorm this week.
Yet while people in Atlanta learn to shovel snow, the weather 2,000 miles to the north has been freakishly warm the past two winters. Throughout northeastern Canada and Greenland, temperatures in December ran as much as 15 or 20 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Bays and lakes have been slow to freeze; ice fishing, hunting and trade routes have been disrupted.
It’s the second chapter of a tale that began a year ago, when Canada as a whole saw the warmest and driest winter in its history. Much of the blame went to El Niño, which typically produces warmer-than-average weather across Canada. So far, so good—but similar things are happening this winter, even with a La Niña now at the helm.
New data compiled by the South African Weather Service and released this week to the Sunday Times suggests the regional climate has already changed, becoming warmer and more extreme since detailed temperature and rainfall monitoring began in 1960.
While you've been freezing your tail off for the past few weeks, the National Climatic Data Center has been gearing up to announce new definitions of "normal" weather conditions for 10,000 regions across the country. And these new "normals" are going to be a lot warmer than the current definitions.
Last year, in which extreme weather caused devastating floods in Pakistan and China and a heatwave in Russia, ranked number two or was tied for the warmest on record, according to agencies measuring world temperatures.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with more than 20 times greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Yet scientists admit that their knowledge about methane’s sources and movements through the carbon cycle is still incomplete. Two new studies published earlier this month in the journal Science chip away at this lack of knowledge. In one study, an international team of scientists reported new data showing that freshwater sources, such as lakes and streams, contribute more methane to the atmosphere than previously thought. The other study clarified how methane is consistently cleansed from the atmosphere.
Global CO2 emissions for long-term stabilization of atmospheric CO2
“Stabilizing atmospheric CO2 and climate requires that
net CO2 emissions approach zero”
0 w/m 2 watts per square meter
Global energy balance & the end of global warming
“Stabilizing climate requires, to first order, that we restore Earth’s energy balance.
If the planet once again radiates as much energy to space as it absorbs from the sun,
there no longer will be a drive causing the planet to get warmer.”
0.25 - 0.75 w/m 2
Global energy imbalance from rising atmospheric CO2 | 1750 - 2000
2.07 ppm per year parts per million
Atmospheric CO2 | Average Annual Rise | January 2002 - 2011
January Data Only The rate of increase for the latest decade is higher than any decade since the start of the atmospheric CO2 instrument record in March 1958.
Ocean Acidification: Average pH of Surface Oceans | 2005
Average pH of surface oceans has declined about 0.1 units since before the industrial revolution. This is an increase of about 30% in the concentration of hydrogen ions which is a considerable acidification of the oceans.
“…world leaders should take account of the impact of CO2 on ocean chemistry,
as well as on climate change…we recommend that all possible approaches
be considered to prevent CO2 reaching the atmosphere.”
100-Year Average Global Surface Temperature | January 1901 - 2000
Average Global Surface Temperature | January 2011
January 2011 is the 17th warmest January on record (since 1880). January 2007 is the warmest on record.
Preliminary data reported February 15, 2011 by NOAA-NCDC.
Atmospheric CO2 | Lowest level in 2.1 million years
Signatories to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
The United Nation's ultimate climate objective “is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.”
Atmospheric CO2 | Pre-Industrial Revolution
Atmospheric CO2 was stable at about 280 ppm for almost 10,000 years until 1750.
Atmospheric CO2 | Highest level in at least 2.1 million years (pre-industrial)
Circa 1912, atmospheric CO2 levels breached the 300 ppm threshold for the first time in at least 2.1 million years.
Atmospheric CO2 | Upper Safety Limit
“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less than that… If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects.”
Atmospheric CO2 | January 2010 | Mauna Loa Observatory
Data reported February 7, 2011 by NOAA-ESRL
Atmospheric CO2 | January 2011 | Mauna Loa Observatory
Preliminary data reported February 7, 2011 by NOAA-ESRL
Atmospheric CO2 | Projection for Year 2100
This scientific projection, reaffirmed December 14, 2010, accounts for the voluntary emissions reductions pledges of parties to the UNFCCC since the Copenhagen climate talks. The projected CO2 level represents a global temperature increase of about 4 °C.
World Population | February 1, 2011
Almost 6.9 billion people are living on planet Earth. If humanity is to achieve a stabilization of atmospheric CO2 at safe levels, this is roughly the number of people who will need to be aligned with net CO2 emissions that approach zero. (See “0 tonnes” in The Climate Sheet.)
Humanity's Global CO2 Emissions | 2009
2009 global CO2 emissions were the second highest in human history. Global fossil fuel emissions – more than 88% of all carbon emissions – are projected to increase by more than 3% in 2010. In the past decade, 47% of CO2 emissions accumulated in the atmosphere, 27% were absorbed by land and 26% were absorbed by the ocean. The 2009 data was published November 21, 2010.
@mospheric Post is an independent, volunteer-driven publication that is produced in Canada by Pro Oxygen, the maker of CO2Now.org. Pro Oxygen distributes @mospheric Post as a free information service for the advancement of climate literacy . . . starting with awareness of atmospheric CO2 and what it means.
Twice a month, @mospheric Post delivers the global numbers earthwide – straight from the atmosphere and virtually in real time. It also gives you access to the latest targets, reports and stories about our world, from around the world. Consider it your online source for getting the straight goods and the big picture on humanity's main environmental challenges.