A careful examination of the Physics and math involved indicates that we are confronted with immensely bad climatic situations. You can see from the official records, by early 1997, we may even have already set in motion a course, which seems to have a built-in delay of 143 years, which might end all life on Earth in maybe a hundred forty years. All of the impressive political words we might hear during the next hundred years, may not matter (This Paper was first published in 2004)
Self-Sufficiency - Many Suggestions|
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There are people who will see this and simply laugh and say that it is from some idiot. But I happened to have been educated at the University of Chicago as a Nuclear Physicist. There are people who still will say that it is all foolish and silly. I truly hope that such people turn out to be right! Unfortunately, the actual facts seem overwhelming to this scientist. But should we ignore even thinking about all possible problems in the future, just because they seem unpleasant? Like an ostrich that sticks its head in the ground? As a Physicist, I was trained to examine all possibilities in order to make sure to have included thinking about whichever one turns out to be the future truth. So even if you feel this is total foolishness, I suggest reading it, in order to find whatever you might consider to be flaws or errors in it, so that you can be reassured that these things will not happen.
You should not simply "believe anyone's opinion" about the following information. It is too important. You must expend the effort to carefully confirm or deny any of the facts presented here, from available published documents. You should try to confirm or deny the validity of the logic presented here, although some of it might seem a little technical. You must spend that time and effort such that you can decide whether this is important enough where you might choose to change your lifestyle. note 2
In the past few years, a lot of people have started having concern about Global Warming. That is excellent. But they seem to all be overlooking a critically important aspect of the problem. We are doing damage that is essentially permanent and it is cumulative. When spokespeople talk about gradually reducing emissions, they are entirely missing the central point. To think about aggressively digging up American coal and American natural gas to reduce dependence on foreign oil supplies sounds brilliant. It has merit for that reason. However, such attitudes do not help in the least to preserve the tiny glimmer of hope mankind has for survival, and indeed, actively extinguishes it.
The public is sometimes incorrectly worried that the increase in concentration of carbon dioxide itself might be dangerous. Nope! Inside your (closed) home in winter, you might have concentrations of 4,000 ppmv (parts per million by volume), ten times greater than the natural air outside which is now around 388 ppmv. In old auditoriums which have lousy air circulation systems, a three-hour lecture or Sermon to thousands of people can sometimes result in 10,000 ppmv, which can have the effect to make many people a little drowsy! And in submarines, up to 20,000 ppmv of carbon dioxide is allowable! The actual main danger is regarding the established fact that the additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere represents a "blanket effect" to keep heat from escaping the earth. Many Agronomists believe that if the average Earth temperature rises to just 80°F [27°C] (it is now around 59°F [15°C]), that plants (crops) worldwide will no longer be capable of lifting sufficient water from the soil to keep their leaves from drying out and dying. If all the plants die, then there will be no food for animals or humans. The fear is that this might occur within one or two centuries. There is a credible possibility that we might have already set in motion a greater temperature increase than that.
Since the Sun's surface is around 5760°K, the wavelength of the median radiation is around 0.709 micron, a reddish color. This is represented by the longer downward (orange) arrow. There is also a different wavelength which is the one that is most intense, which is at 0.503 microns (a greenish color), which is represented by the attached shorter (orange) arrow to the left in the graph.
That incoming heat from the Sun easily gets through our atmosphere, and we can see that the left part of this graph shows that carbon dioxide essentially does not absorb any of that incoming sunlight.
Different parts of the Earth are at different temperatures, so they radiate at different wavelengths. We show the median (13.2 microns) and peak (9.3 microns) wavelengths for the radiation from the hotter Equator regions (as red arrows), and also for the radiation from the colder Polar regions (16.1 microns and 12.4 microns) (as blue arrows).
It happens that carbon dioxide has extreme absorbtivity of such wavelengths of radiation, as seen toward the right in the graph. Unfortunately, it has an absorption peak which is very close to the wavelengths that the Earth radiates. That was great in the past, as it increased the Earth's Equilibrium Temperature from an original (without any atmosphere) of around -5°F [-21°C] up to the current 59°F [15°C]. No life was possible long ago, since all the water would have generally been ice!
But now that we have decided to add spectacular amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, the same characteristic now represents a dreadful problem.
It might be noted that some of the radiation from the Equator regions has a chance of escaping, as the absorbtivity of carbon dioxide is not quite as high for some of those wavelengths. But the absorbtivity of carbon dioxide for the Polar regions is consistently near 100%. Many scientists seem mystified as to why the North Polar region is warming up several times faster than the rest of the planet. Part of the reason is the change of color / reflectivity, where the white snow and ice used to reflect most of the Sun's incoming radiation back out to space, while the darker oceans and bare land now absorbs much more of it. But another part of the explanation seems pretty obvious when this differential energy absorption of carbon dioxide is considered. It just happens that the cooler polar areas try to radiate at wavelengths where the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere tends to block it, as seen with the blue-colored arrows in the graphic above.
There is also an interesting lesson in this subject area! You have certainly heard spokespeople claim that methane gas is far more of a danger than carbon dioxide is regarding global warming. They then always add that huge amounts of Methane Hydrate is now trapped under Polar ice and when the ice melts in coming decades, enormous amounts of Methane gas will be released into our atmosphere. And since you really have no obvious way to either confirm or deny such statements, you (and everyone else) assume that the statement is true! In fact, nearly all scientists now seem to believe it! Sounds fine, except when you examine the actual data! The graphic here shows the absorbtivity spectrum of methane gas. According to those spokespeople, one would expect massive areas of the absorbtivity graph in the infrared, right? But look at the actual experimental evidence! There are actually only two relatively narrow peaks of that absorbtivity graph. More, neither of the peaks is anywhere near the frequencies at which the Earth tries to radiate out into space!
Claiming that methane gas is some horrific danger, in order to try to distract from the far greater quantities of carbon dioxide (by a factor of about 200:1) and also the broader absorbtivity spectrum of carbon dioxide clearly proves right here that the irrational fears regarding methane gas are unsupported! Yes, methane represents some global warming danger. But a tiny, tiny fraction of what carbon dioxide represents.
It is sad that a few spokespeople can terrify and mislead an entire public, about really important subjects like this. But really few people have had access to the graphs presented here (unless they were Research scientists!) and so such claims have remained unchallenged.
Many skeptics (and all businesses!) claim that there is no actual problem! They point out that whether or not there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the Earth's average temperature has only been seen to have risen by about 1.1°C from about 13.75° C in 1900 up to about 14.9°C today. [2°F rise from 56.75°F up to 58.75°F]. They assume that if it had only risen by one degree Celsius in a hundred years of Industrial Revolution, then it can't rise drastically above that now. They are wrong! In fact, in September 2009, the prestigious Hadley Centre of the British Met Office announced that they now believe that we are facing a certain 4°C or 7.2°F rise during this century (up to 65.95°F or 18.9°C), and possibly as soon as the year 2060. They admit that they are being very conservative, and that the rise could be far greater than that! They also find that the Arctic region might rise spectacularly faster, up by 15.2°C or 27.4°F during this century! (up to possibly 86.15°F or 30.1°C) They say that many regions of Africa are likely to rise by around 10°C or 18°F (up to above 24.9°C or 76.75°F)! This information was presented at a noted Conference at Oxford University, in September 2009.
In November, 2009, some experts are now talking about worldwide temperature rise of more than 6°C in coming decades.
A few researchers (including me) have tried to warn about such coming disasters for a number of years. To deaf ears!
The Oxford Conference still has an element of optimism that may be misplaced. They announced that IF fossil fuel burning was soon controlled and then reduced, we might avoid these disastrous near future events. I think they were wrong in that optimism. This presentation and the related one centered on Global Warming, discuss an aspect of the problem that no one else seems to have yet recognized. We only see limited temperature rises, because the Earth is extremely massive and its Crustal rocks are really bad at conducting heat inward. So even when we are causing the air to be heated up to an equilibrium temperature that is far hotter than we now measure, the colder ground quickly cools that air. The calculations in the related presentation seem to indicate that there should be about a 140-year lag time before the actual average Earth temperature achieves its equilibrium. And if that understanding is correct, then we have even bigger problems! There is a decent chance that by sometime early in 1997, we had already burned enough fossil fuels to cause a situation around 140 years later where no plants may be able to live on Earth. That would mean no food for any animals or humans. This is really bad!
Now, this seems improbable to each of us! The average US driver drives around 12,000 miles each year, and if the vehicle he/she drives gets just 20 miles per gallon, then each of us actually only uses up around 600 gallons of gasoline every year. Doesn't sound like much of a problem! "I" am not causing any problem! But there are at least 120 million of us US drivers, and so we collectively use up around 72 billion gallons of gasoline, and that is only counting our personal driving! Add in all the trucks and trains and airplanes and ships necessary to get our products to us, and it "starts to add up!" This situation then allows each of us to have a cop-out in simply saying "It's the "other guy" who is doing all the damage!"
"I am only adding a few straws to the camel's back each day. He will be fine! By fifty years from now, I promise to try to only be adding two extra straws to his back each day. He will be fine! I am sure of that!"
The crux of the matter is whether we believe that or not.
|Year||Total Mass of Carbon Dioxide In the Atmosphere
in Metric Tons
|125000 BC||2,200,000,000,000 tons||58°F|
|1100 AD||2,200,000,000,000 tons||58°F|
|1800 AD||2,200,000,000,000 tons||58°F|
|1900 AD||2,324,000,000,000 tons||61°F|
|1958 AD||2,472,000,000,000 tons||65°F|
|1997 AD||2,837,000,000,000 tons||77°F|
|2008 AD||3,008,000,000,000 tons||83°F|
|2016 AD||3,158,000,000,000 tons||88°F|
|2049 AD||3,570,000,000,000 tons||---|
|2108 AD||4,605,000,000,000 tons||127°F|
note 48 note 24 note 31
You can see here that data that the US Government collects at the South Pole proves that we add an additional 500 tons or one million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every second. And due to our great lust for energy and electricity and comfortable lifestyles, we will not stop until we all die! It is all amazingly simple and obvious!
Actually, we burn enough fossil fuels where we are actually creating around double that amazing rate of increase! We just happen to be lucky that the (cold) ocean waters are really good at absorbing carbon dioxide, and roughly half the amount we create and dump into the atmosphere each year gets absorbed into the oceans! So this rate of increase in the atmosphere, as amazing as it is, only reflects about half of the damage that we are actually causing! There is every indication that, as the Earth warms up in the near future, the warmed oceans will release those enormous amounts which are now still being absorbed. That is because water has a peculiar characteristic of absorbing amazing amounts of carbon dioxide if the water is cold, but far less when it heats up just a degree or two.
You might notice something else from the brief chart above. Between the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1800 and 1997, we humans managed to add about 600 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. But just between 1997 and 2009, barely a decade, we have caused the addition of an additional 200 billion tons! And there have also been news reports in 2009 that say that of all of human history on Earth, fully one-fourth of all the fossil fuels ever burned, have been burned during this decade (2000-2009)!
I have added another line in the smaller chart above. It is actually
not due to any actual science, but rather some knowledgeable people
in 2014 who have insisted that everyone has agreed that we dare not
increase the Earth's average temperature by more than 2°C or
3.6°F, which they said matched with an increase of
565 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. Even those statements
are not very scientifically credible, I figured I might add a line
to represent that situation, which leaders today (2014) think is an
absolute maximum Global Warming future. Using simple Linear Analysis,
I saw that such an amount will apparently occur by about the year
2049, not very long from now!
We will see below that in the 419,000 years prior to the year 1900, research has shown that there had never been more than 2,300 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere. We see here that due to our human activities, the number is already tremendously above that amount, and increasing at a frightening rate.
The point here is that, like with the camel's back, the effects are cumulative, and have been for over 200 years, and that we have absolutely no way to reverse them. Worse, our modern societies, including many new countries, seem intent on breaking the camel's back as soon as they can! The discussion below indicates that it will happen within about 100 years, where this continual increase will result in all plants to no longer being able to raise enough water from the ground to keep from drying out and wilting, ending the entire food supply for the world. This seems certain to occur at a time when some children today will probably still be alive to starve to death as a result!
And absolutely nothing will be done to avoid it happening! Yes, some token efforts will be done to impress Reporters, and to publicly display the results of billions of dollars of Grants that politicians will give away, but any actual significant effort would be extremely detrimental to all modern businesses.
Political leaders seem to assume that in the future they or their replacements will "handle the problem". That therefore allows their friends, the billionaires who run the largest Corporations, to proceed as they wish today in pursuing profits, until some latest possible date. They are wrong. But since they know that no one can absolutely identify such an indisputable date, they know that no one will stop their pursuit of profits! Those political leaders and business leaders know that they can slide by without having to make any "difficult decisions" which would hurt giant Corporations (profits) that their careers are financially dependent on.
So if we wildly burn up all the petroleum and natural gas that we can possibly get our hands on, the worst we can do is to add around another 937 billion metric tons. Added on to the current amount of 3,158 billion tons, we will have a difficult time in causing the atmosphere to exceed around 4,090 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide in it! Is that a good thing? To completely run out of petroleum and natural gas within a few decades, which then eliminates the need for politicians to force us to cut back?
However, humans being what we are, we certainly will choose to focus on burning coal after the gas and oil are either gone or too expensive. Will there again be Stanley Steamer cars that burn coal? Hard to say! If you are patient, it might be something to buy stock in!
As it turns out, there is a lot of coal under the Earth, and assuming we survive long enough to burn it all up, that is an enormous additional amount of carbon dioxide that we could add to the atmosphere, around 2,663 billion metric tonnes. So if humanity does not get discouraged regarding self-extermination due to burning petroleum and natural gas, we will always be able to use coal to do it! If we really put our minds to it, and we probably will, we could increase the amount of carbon dioxide up to around 6,653 billion metric tonnes. You can see that is roughly triple of what the stable amount had been for millions of years up to 1800 AD. Quite impressive!
|The central problem coming is that at some point, the Earth's atmosphere will warm up to a point where plants cannot draw sufficient water from the soil to keep their leaves from drying out and dying. Plants happen to be the only actual source of food for people and animals on Earth. Once all the plants die, there will be no source of food at all, and all animals and people will necessarily die of starvation within months of that. (see Archer and Barber, 2003, Photosynthesis and Photoconversion, Chap 1, p.4)|
When will anyone know for sure that all the plants are in the process of dying? Sadly, only after it has proceeded to a point where it can not be stopped. How many straws were involved in the fable about the camel? No one could know, until it happened.
There have been a number of Botanist and Agronomist Researchers who have given numbers that are generally around 80°F [27°C] for an average Earth temperature where essentially no plants will then be able to live (compared to today's average of around 59°F or 15°C). But they can't prove such statements regarding the entire Earth! (Our linked analysis regarding the current equilibrium temperature for the Earth indicates that it appears to possibly have already risen to around 83°F or 28°C). note 35
Businesses and leaders will be able to always deny the very existence any such effects, and any responsibility by them for such effects, until far after it will be too late. There is a valid possibility that that situation has already happened (due to our past efforts at having dumped around an extra 800 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere already by burning fossil fuels.) note 35 note 32 So there is a definite possibility that we are already beyond the point where human life will be able to continue for very long on Earth! note 32
There are spokespeople who confidently announce that the Earth has gone through periods of temperature variations in the past and that natural processes have always corrected such things. That statement is true, but the spokespeople clearly do not realize that the natural processes have generally taken millions of years to make such corrections. Given that we don't live that long, such statements made by those spokespeople are simply misleading the public. Whether that is due to their ignorance or their intentional deception is probably irrelevant, and the simple facts are all that are really important.
The people who want to claim that all this is fictitious sometimes use an unfortunate fact to convince the public that they are right and that there is no problem at all! This "Unfortunate Fact" is called the Carbon Cycle. Try to follow the size of these numbers. Last year (2008), we humans burned enough petroleum, natural gas and coal to create a new 31 billion tons of carbon dioxide which was immediately emitted into the atmosphere. (They cannot deny this, and the specific numbers and logic are contained below.) However, nature works on an even bigger scale! Every year, there is about 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere as dead plants and animals decompose all over the Earth. And about 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by all the plants that convert solar energy and carbon dioxide and water into glucose by the process of photosynthesis.
Over a period of millions of years, these two aspects of the Carbon Cycle had developed an impressive equality. The fact that both numbers are so enormously huge, means that if either the decomposition or the plant growth increases or decreases by even one per cent, there can be a (brief) net change in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of several billion tons. The enormity of both sides of the Carbon Cycle can make it seem that the 31 billion tons that we added last year is minor or can be ignored! That is an argument that some businesses claim in order to be allowed to continue to burn massive amounts of fossil fuels.
Actually, we have found yet another way to make Global Warming an even worse problem. Did you notice that we just mentioned the importance of the equality of those two very large natural numbers? So, say that we see ways to make profits by chopping down all the trees we can get a chain saw to do? For either clearing to provide cropland for some farmer, or to sell wood for profit. That can have an effect of reducing by a few percent the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere due to photosynthesis (since there are lot less trees that can grow), without also reducing the amount of organic matter that is rotting. At least That situation is relatively temporary! After a few decades of wiping out the rain forests, and the dead trees have rotted away, there will then be less rotting trees to send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So even though we are doing our best to kill off billions of trees to make bigger profits, Nature will eventually make adjustments. Unfortunately, such corrections might exist after we humans and animals have all starved to death! Does Nature have a very dark sense of humor?
The public seems to often have trouble distinguishing between recirculating carbon dioxide and new carbon dioxide. One might initially get scared at the fact that rotting plants and animals will release 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide this year. If that was an amount that might stay in the atmosphere, it might be catastrophic. But as long as all the world's plants grow, they remove a virtually identical amount, leaving a net increase of around zero. In contrast, when we burn fossil fuels, we are actually releasing carbon dioxide that had gotten removed from the atmosphere hundreds of millions of years ago. Instead of some plants rotting and decomposing, they got covered up by landslides or volcanic eruptions or sediments or oceans, and therefore did not decompose naturally. Instead, very slowly (over millions of years) they decomposed into unique materials, like peat. And that material got buried even deeper and became coal or petroleum or natural gas.
So all the Global Warming discussions (including this one) assumes that the Carbon Cycle remains balanced. It is only with that assumption, which we all believe is rock solid, that the dire results of global warming can or will occur. Since businesses do not want to have limitations put on them regarding pursuing profits, they simply claim that "natural variations have always occurred and that they are the entire cause of all these matters, so let us continue with business as usual."
Unfortunately, they are absolutely wrong, but the fossil fuels companies can generally find a few spokespeople or even Professors that are willing to agree with them, especially if they are given millions of dollars for future research! My favorite is the Professor in Oregon who absolutely denies that there is any glacier melting in the mountains that are within view of his University! He will not drive to the tops of the mountains (with his students who try to insist that he visit the mountain tops) to see the actual effect, but insists that he is an expert and that he is right! My second favorite is the relatively famous former TV weatherman who also spends his life now going around, insisting that there is no such thing as Global Warming!
There are also people who declare themselves experts who distract the public to entirely incorrect ideas! In general, such "experts" show their ignorance at not knowing the difference between aspects of the Carbon Cycle (which recycles and is balanced, neither increasing nor decreasing the net amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) and the burning of fossil fuels (which simply adds new carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and never removes any of it). Such "experts" quote huge numbers to refer to amounts of the recycled parts of the Carbon Cycle, and (ignorantly) claim that the (naturally occurring) giant numbers are more dangerous than (relatively) smaller numbers which describe the emissions due to burning fossil fuels. It is an example of people using bits and pieces of facts, but then presenting them in incredibly deceptive ways. Such behavior may be considered tolerable in most industries, but when we are discussing the possible extinction of mankind within 150 years, we should demand more accurate and honest statements.
We sometimes use one specific example of this kind of (incorrect) logic. It has to do with US (humans) breathing! We each generally breathe around 12 times every minute, and each exhaled breath is around half a liter of air. Only a tiny amount of each exhaled breath is carbon dioxide (only about 1/12000 of a pound or 1/25 gram) but in all the breaths we take in a year (around 7 million!) that adds up to about 600 pounds of carbon dioxide that each of us exhales in each year. There are over 7 billion of us humans now living, so collectively, we exhale around two billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere! Does this mean that we are un-Green? Not at all! We are merely a part of the Carbon Cycle, where plants had earlier removed those two billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by the process of photosynthesis where plant materials (initially nearly all glucose) were formed, which became our food. Our human bodies merely consumed the results of that photosynthesis and processed them in order to capture the energy they contained, simply returning the carbon dioxide and water vapor back to the atmosphere when we are done (mostly by exhaled breaths.) Consider it this way: If we had not eaten all that food during that year, the leaves and grasses and trees would have died naturally and then decomposed naturally, to release the exact same amount of carbon dioxide that we release in our collective exhaled breaths! The Carbon Cycle is like that, and it has operated very effectively for hundreds of millions of years!
There actually is a far better idea regarding what to do with that seven billion tons of waste organic matter! Use the HeatGreen approach and capture the heat energy which is given off as that material decomposes.
What that would actually be doing is tweaking the Carbon Cycle. Where a normal year might be +300-300 billion tons of carbon dioxide, for a net stability of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, this scheme would instead be +290-300 billion tons, so that the net effect would be a ten billion ton reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This actually would work, as long as the earth's plants still grew enough plants to use up 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide, and you ensured that the dead plants you hauled would not be able to access any oxygen and sufficient warmth to decompose naturally.
The flaw in this concept is that you need to burn the fuel for the 3,000,000 semi trucks every day just to haul all that debris across the country! Maybe if every one of the 3,000 Counties in the US would all allocate a few square miles of land for this project, then they would each only need to make a thousand shorter trucking trips every day? Yeah, right! People who lust for owning land so they can get rich by it, giving up 10,000 square miles of land just to create artificial peat bogs? (That somewhat larger an area than the entire State of Massachusetts or New Jersey!) Ain't gonna happen!
But every day we are intentionally choosing to reduce our odds of survival of mankind even more. We keep adding extra straws to the camel's back. Indeed, we are now shoveling extra straws on in the largest quantities that our modern technology can accomplish! The result is that each day of what we call "modern society" we are bringing even closer the day when humanity will have self-exterminated.
We are all fully responsible! Every gallon of gasoline that you burn up in your vehicles sends another 18 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere note 1, which will likely remain there for hundreds of thousands of years. Every gallon of home heating oil you use, the same. Every lump of coal burned to create the electricity you use, yes.
You claim that you only use small amounts, a wonderful cop-out. But there are over seven billion of us humans alive, and even though each of us only adds moderate amounts, collectively we add astounding amounts to the atmosphere. This year (2008), we humans will burn enough coal note 13, oil note 14, and natural gas note 15 to add over 400,000,000,000,000 cubic feet of carbon dioxide to the Earth's atmosphere. note 19 Even though the Earth is very large, that enormous amount is significant. And remembering that this is all cumulative, we will do the same thing next year, and the year after, and the year after that. All that new carbon dioxide does not go away and instead it simply keeps accumulating in the atmosphere, just like the straws on the camel's back. Until we manage to cause a consequence where we all die. Again, there is a valid possibility that has already happened, but we just will not know it for sure for some decades to come. (possibly about 140 years delay, per the calculations and analysis of this link) note 35
And, we, the people who want the convenience of driving automobiles and trucks, and of our unlimited supplies of electricity and all the rest, can simply claim denial of any responsibility, or even any validity of these matters. And the giant corporations that manufacture and sell such vehicles and the gasoline and diesel they burn up, can talk about your comfort and convenience and thereby avoid having to face their complicity in the end of humanity. It all works out quite conveniently! Since we, today's adults, will not personally be damaged or die as a result, it is extremely easy for everyone involved to deny everything that is uncomfortable to face!
However, all such spokespeople are being incredibly deceptive to the public, and always with the intention of something that involves either new giant profits or the maintenance of existing giant profits.
Here is why it is all deception:
In the year 2008, we humans burned up an enormous amount of coal (about 4.5 billion metric tonnes), petroleum (about 30 billion barrels) and natural gas (around 3 trillion cubic meters). The specifics are in these footnotes, where those fossil fuel burned produced around 13.2 billion note 13; 12.8 billion note 14; and 5.9 billion metric tons note 15, respectively, of carbon dioxide. A total of around 31.9 billion tons of new carbon dioxide was therefore produced and released into the atmosphere during the year 2008. note 19
The data that the US Government continuously collects at the South Pole totaled an increase of only around 15 billion tons in the year 2008 (as shown below in the chart of years and in the actual data). So, in 2008, we dumped roughly twice as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as was measured! How could that be? It turns out that most of it was due to the fact that cold ocean water can absorb spectacular amounts of carbon dioxide (discussed below). We are remarkably lucky!
NOTE: We will discuss below the fact that the US government chooses to describe these amounts in a peculiar way, by describing an MMTCe (millions of metric tonnes of carbon equivalent) rather than stating the actual amounts of carbon dioxide. That number only counts the carbon atoms in the gas and not the actual molecules of carbon dioxide! The effect is that when such amounts are described as MMTCe, they are lower numbers, actually 12/44 of the actual amounts of carbon dioxide (the atomic weight of carbon divided by the atomic weight of carbon dioxide). So where we are discussing (worldwide production of) 25 or 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide, some official figures describe these same amounts as around 6,000 to 8,000 MMTCe. The United States currently creates about 1/4 of all of the world's production, so the US contribution is commonly officially described as around 1,500 to 2,000 MMTCe. note 8
It is fascinating the silly games that businessmen and politicians are willing to play to try to deceive the public. You probably are less fearful of a small-sounding 6,600 MMTCe than of a menacing-sounding 25 billion tons. Even though they both describe the precise same thing! How about if I decide to call it "25 puppies" instead? Everyone would be calm and peaceful! And it would simply be total deception!
Say that we do not even intend to actually reduce the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but rather simply intend to capture and process the amount that we are adding that year. We just saw that this is already over 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide. We will discuss the logistics of this below, but for now just note that a full 18-wheeler semi-tanker-truck can contain and haul around 20 tons (40,000 pounds) of liquid, or slightly less as compressed gas. A simple division of 30 billion tons by 20 tons per load, tells us that we would require 1,500,000,000 full truckloads of carbon dioxide to be captured, processed, pumped, hauled and then stored.
If those spokespeople are talking about one full truckload, yes, they might be exactly correct in their statements. It's just that none of them have ever even thought about more than a billion full truckloads every year, which is about four million full truckloads every day, and that would only be to deal with what we are adding to the problem and not actually solving anything!
A gallon of gasoline contains around 126,000 Btus of chemical energy. A cubic foot of natural gas (at STP, standard temperature and pressure) contains around 1,040 Btus. So to replace one gallon of gasoline with CNG, around 125 cubic feet of natural gas is required, to provide the same amount of chemical energy on which the motor can operate. Given that average annual gasoline use of 600 gallons, that would then require 75,000 cubic feet of natural gas to replace one driver's gasoline usage. Pickens wants to modify 10% of the nearly 200 million US vehicles on the road to only being able to use CNG (gasoline could then no longer be used at all in those vehicles). So his seemingly casual comment would require about 12 million drivers to each use those 75,000 cubic feet of natural gas for every year after that! Doing the multiplication, that is 900 billion cubic feet of natural gas. This is a lot of natural gas that would have to be added to current US natural gas consumption.
Where is the huge flaw in Mr. Pickens reasoning? He is apparently unaware that the US currently does not produce anywhere near enough natural gas for current needs! According to published documents by British Petroleum (BP), in 2004, the US produced 20.17% of the world's natural gas but had to import an additional 3.88% in order to meet the 2004 US consumption of 24.05%.
If we already have to import truly huge amounts of natural gas to fill our current needs (which, interestingly, is around 900,000,000,000 cubic feet each year!), how does Mr. Pickens think that we would now be able to produce another 900,000,000,000 cubic feet each year for his project? It seems important to note that Mr. Pickens happens to own several of the largest US suppliers of natural gas, and so his project would certainly add some new billions to his personal wealth. But how is his project supposed to actually do any good in the way he claims? It simply appears that he will cause the amount of imported natural gas to triple what it is now. Is that a "solution"?
(This concept and the next one below both would not help with the Global Warming crisis at all, but instead simply try to provide the fossil fuels from American sources rather than foreign.)
So even if the most optimistic estimates happen to be true, the best that Alaska could provide would be just one year of US consumption! And if it should be true that the majority of those experts are correct, even less at only about four months' supply!
They also seem to never mention that it would take them around ten years before they could get everything set up to do that!
And no one seems to mention that the famous Alaska Pipeline (Alyeska) which now carries all the northern Alaska oil across the State to shipping ports has never been more than half-filled at any time in at least the most recent five years! They just do not have enough oil to fill the existing Pipeline! Yet, they want taxpayers to pay for building a bunch of parallel pipelines!
A darkly humorous side effect of this concept is that during the ten years when they would be drilling new wells and building new pipelines and the rest, we will have been continuing to use up all the oil that they have already found. Does it seem like a solution for the future to spent ten years and astronomical amounts of taxpayer money to build the infrastructure so that only around four months' worth of US consumption could be obtained? Along with deciding to "rape" the Nature Preserves which were set up in Alaska to avoid this very activity? It is as though we want to prove that our government has absolutely no ethics or principles, as well as a serious lack of intelligence!
This is not to defend any environmentalist point-of-view. Actually, many of them are so extreme as to be virtually irrational in their demands. These comments and this presentation are simply to present facts that people on both sides seem to regularly ignore. Except for the looming consequence of ending all significant lifeforms on Earth, I do not really have any personal opinion regarding these matters. In general, both sides seem amazingly self-absorbed, where they overlook larger issues for things they see as very personal, whether it is financial profits on one side or saving a few dozen owls on the other.
But what was the benefit in giving up 1/3 of all US cropland for this Ethanol project? It has resulted in enough Ethanol to replace around three percent of the gasoline usage in the US! Nearly an irrelevant benefit, considering how spectacular the costs have been and will be. Few businesses would have been foolish enough to try to pursue this Ethanol adventure, but the US government has provide many billions of dollars for all the companies that were willing to get involved. Who wouldn't have?
Oh, watch the newspaper headlines well before that! Probably around 2016 or 2017, Reporters will learn that both Canada and Australia will begin to have to shut down their Uranium mines, for having mined all they had to sell to the US (and to France). So way before any shiny new Nuclear Powerplants might be able to come online around 2020, everyone will be in panic regarding the fact that the US will no longer have any credible source for Uranium. (Only the country of Kazakhstan will then have any significant amount, and I suspect that China will be able to out-bid the US for their neighbor's Uranium. So this is a News Bulletin, that you will see fill the news around 2016 or 2017, and there is no solution for it. Any "new technologies" that might be able to re-activate nuclear powerplants (as to use Thorium or spent fuel rods) figures to take at least 50 years of effort. In the past 50 years, no researcher has yet found even minimal ways to solve the issues that would be required. SO, after about 2017, don't hold your breath in waiting to receive any more nuclear generated electricity! Again, as asked above, doesn't anyone actually think through ideas any more? Do they all trust each other and then act surprised when things all fall apart? (Yes, they do.)
As a US Taxpayer, I must admit to having "an attitude" about such things. Did you know that every one of the 435 Congressmen and 100 Senators has a staff of at least 400 people? And that many of those people are supposed to "research things" so that Representative or Senator is fully informed? These various items mentioned here are all very important, and the statements made hear are VERY obvious and very easily available. How come none of those 20,000+ people (who we Taxpayers pay high salaries for) seems to have ever found these (obvious) things? Doesn't that seem to cause us Taxpayers to wonder just what we are paying for? (Sorry, even Physicists sometimes have "emotional outbursts"!)
I remember as a child being told of the hypothetical ethical and philosophical dilemma of having the ability of "pressing a button" which would cause some distant person in some jungle to suddenly die but also that you would receive a million dollars. The question was "Would you press the button?" We seem to be in a similar situation today, except that it is not some distant stranger, but likely your own children and grandchildren that will die due to our choices and actions and lifestyles of today.
The following facts and logic suggest that there is a very good chance that each year of our current prosperity of society, very likely will shorten the future of any people being able to live on Earth, by possibly two months for each current year. And this is not something that would occur thousands or millions of years from now, but very likely only around one century from now.
For many years, people have known that we are totally dependent on plants for our food supply (even animals and fish we eat were dependent on plants as food.) We have already caused a situation where the Earth seems (soon?) certain to get so warm that no plants will be able to draw enough water from the soil to keep themselves from drying out and dying. And in case there might be any doubt about that, we have chosen a course that ensures that we are daily making it more and more an unavoidable certainty. By around 2080, no conventional crops will likely be possible in the United States or most of Europe or anywhere in Africa. There is a decent chance that there will be no trees, crops, or even grass anywhere in Africa or in most of the United States at that time. Your children will likely witness that effect! But as of the damage we have done so far (2008), there actually could be some (limited) locations on Earth where crops, or at least some types of plants, might be successfully grown, in the time scale of even 2150 AD. Northern Canada might be one, but the low Sun and short growing season figures to limit the productivity of crops there to being simply for survival.
The plants in the oceans will be similarly exterminated, but in a more complex manner. Ocean waters are already getting much increased levels of carbon dioxide in them, which is creating massive increases of carbonic acid (created when dissolved carbon dioxide chemically combines with the water of the ocean) being formed in the oceans. That acid tends to dissolve the shells of tiny ocean plants, dissolve coral reefs and decrease the pH of the ocean waters (acidify) where plants will have great trouble surviving.
People do not seem to realize how aggressively we are changing the climates on Earth, just by living what we think are comfortable modern lives! Since human nature will cause virtually all people and businesses and governments to insist on maintaining and improving their current economies and lifestyles, it is certain that we will shorten that time scale down to probably around 2090 when the Earth will have gotten so warm that even all cactus will die. Within months of that end of the food supply, all remaining animals and people will starve to death. If this actually does happen around 2090, then children living today will be some of those last humans to die. (Archer and Barber, 2003, Photosynthesis and Photoconversion, Chap 1, p.4, calculated those things several years ago, and expressed their concern that the end of human and animal life may soon happen.)
Is it worth us having six years of the comfort and prosperity of what we call modern society, if that is very likely to shorten the lives of your own children and grandchildren (and all other humans) by a year? An interesting question to ponder.
It is obvious that before the Industrial Revolution began (around 1800), the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was fairly constant. The ice core data graph below extends that relatively constant line back for a very long time (compressed here, but around 420 computer screens to the left), where it was never above 300 ppmv. Since the Industrial Revolution began, and we started burning a lot of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), the curve goes wildly upward, and will cross through where the red blotch is far above the existing graph.
We will often abbreviate "parts per million" of the total atmosphere as ppm. This chart shows that the concentration of carbon dioxide was moderately constant at around 280 ppm for the 800 years from 1000 AD to 1800 AD.
It turns out that when snowflakes fell long ago and then became compressed into ice, tiny bubbles of the air (between the snowflakes) of that time got trapped in the ice. Many Research projects have been done (mostly in Antarctica and in Greenland) regarding examining (drilled) ice cores from as much as ten thousand feet deep of ice. This research has provided actual air from the past 419,000 years. This ice-core data therefore extends the Scripps graph back a long way. Think of the Scripps graph being extended to the left around 420 computer screens, with the line never varying much from what we see in those 800 years. In fact, that data shows that there was never any time when the concentration was above 300 ppm (or below about 182 ppm) during the past 419,000 years, Here is the published data (in Nature, June 3, 1999) from the highly respected Vostok ice core research:
In other words, there is no data in Earth's history for what might happen if and when the concentration would rise above 300 ppm. Remembering that, look again at the right hand side of the Scripps graph, where the curve goes so rapidly above 300 ppmv. The best we can do is to simply guess at what the atmosphere's response will be to the 300 ppmv of 1900. Or the 370 ppmv of 2000. Or the 410 ppmv of 2018. Or the 615 ppmv which will exist in the year 2100 AD. We seem to have decided to "play the Lottery" in hopes of "winning" which means surviving. The odds against us seem to be comparable to the odds of the Lottery. And no one seems to really care!
We note one additional fact from this pair of graphs from the highly respected research. The temperature graph follows the carbon dioxide graph moderately well as to shape, but note that whenever there was a change of around 100 ppm, either up or down, in the upper graph, there was around a corresponding 10°C [or 18°F] change in the Earth's average temperature. This is important in the related Global Warming presentation because we are recently looking at over a 100 ppm increase (so far) in CO2 concentration (from around 280 to 390 ppm). The data from these Vostok graphs seems to indicate that we should therefore expect at least a 10°C or 18°F rise, which is in fairly good agreement with the 25°F (14°C) rise calculated in the Global Warming presentation's logic. note 35 If the resulting average Earth temperature is therefore 76°F [24°C] or 83°F [28°C], either will very likely be terminal to the Earth's plant life.
That is important because many botanists and agronomists have said that if the Earth ever gets up to such temperatures, then all plants will die. There are many different opinions, but many of those experts say that an increase of even 10°C [or 18°F] in the Earth's average temperature will end all plant life on Earth. Not "immediately" but certainly within a few generations of us at most.
An interesting (from a scientific viewpoint) and frightening (from a human viewpoint) detail seems appropriate to mention here. In the Vostok CO2 graph, if your computer monitor has a horizontal resolution of 960 or 1280 pixels, then each horizontal pixel represents around 400 years. So the extreme rise upward during the Twentieth Century from around 296 ppmv to 367 ppmv (which is well above the top edge of their chart) would be displayed as exactly vertical! In fact, the expected 615 ppmv (of the year 2108) is still within 200 years and therefore still within the same horizontal pixel, and therefore still absolutely a vertical line! This is important because you regularly hear people claiming that there are natural variations in the climate (which is a true statement), but those people clearly have no idea of how incredibly unique a vertical line which will rise to a point twice as high as the top of that graph (at the 615 ppmv of 2108), after the natural patterns of the previous 419,000 years. Such speakers seem to think that they are telling useful truths to the public, but the fact that they only partially understand what they are talking about causes such comments to be incredibly deceptive and even dangerous.
As humans discovered the Industrial Revolution, where initially coal was burned to power many factories, when that fossil fuel was burned (oxidized), the carbon which had been trapped in the coal then combined with oxygen from the air to create about three pounds (2.93) of carbon dioxide from each pound of coal that was burned. note 13 As industrialization and society advanced, petroleum and natural gas were discovered to be compact sources for the energy needed by modern processes and vehicles. Carbon dioxide production is very similar for all of the fossil fuels.
Using the (annual averaged) measured South Pole data from US government documents, we can therefore present the following table:
Billions Metric Tons
|Total Mass of Carbon Dioxide|
in the Earth's Atmosphere
Billions Metric Tons
|1800||(est) 280||av 1800-1900:|
1.1 per year
|1900||(est) 296||av 1900-1910:|
2.7 per year
The second column gives the (yearly average of the) actual measured CO2 concentrations at the South Pole since regular measurements began being recorded there in 1958. The third column gives the difference of the year value with the previous year, that is, the increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere.
The fourth column is the actual amount of increase of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere, in billions of Metric Tons, during that year. The numbers in this column are based on the following:
The total mass of the Earth's atmosphere is 5.136 * 1015 Metric Tons. This number is extremely well confirmed, and YOU can even confirm it! The "atmospheric pressure" (14.7 pounds per square inch in the English system) is actually simply the total weight of all the air stacked above that square inch, all the way to the top of the atmosphere. So simply multiplying that number by the total area of the Earth's surface (in square inches!), and the product is the total mass (weight) of the entire Earth's atmosphere.
The concentrations of carbon dioxide are specified in parts per million, so we need to take this into account. There is one further complication. The concentrations are measured in volume and not weight or mass. (ppmv and not ppmm). Therefore, we need to also take into account that carbon dioxide has a higher density than normal air, by the factor of the molecular weight ratio. Carbon dioxide has an atomic weight of 44. The mixture of nitrogen and oxygen that makes up nearly all of our atmosphere has an atomic weight of around 28.8. This makes the density of carbon dioxide 44/28.8 or 1.529 that of air. (This number is available from many sources). Therefore, we applied these two factors to the differential value in column three to calculate the actual number of tons of carbon dioxide that was added to the atmosphere during that previous year, in column four.
The value in column five is the cumulative total of the increases, which is therefore the actual running total number of billions of tons of carbon dioxide in the entire atmosphere of the Earth. It is obviously also exactly proportional to the column two value of ppmv.
We will shortly discuss the situation where we will continue with similar usage as today for the next 100 years. Realistically, this is extremely conservative, because it does not consider the additional burning of fossil fuels in China or India or many other countries.
Billions Metric Tons
|Total Mass of Carbon Dioxide|
in the Earth's Atmosphere
Billions Metric Tons
We can also see that more recently, far more aggressive usage of not only coal but also petroleum and natural gas has increased not only the height of the graph line but the slope of the curve in the graph, as well, meaning that we now are adding far more than just the one billion tons added each year during the 1800s or the three billion tons added each year in the early 1900s. In fact, this chart shows us that we have been recently adding between fifteen and thirty billion tons each year, such that the current concentration is now very close to 410 ppm.
Whether it is intentional deception or accidental choice, the US government decided some years back to describe these amounts in an odd way. See this Footnote note 9
This is again in excellent agreement with the other figures above, which confirms that they are each very reliable.
An Example Year
We now know that in that year (2000), human activities created and emitted 25.29 billion tons of carbon dioxide. From the table above of the analysis of the South Pole data, we know that 9.66 billion tons of carbon dioxide actually became added to the atmosphere that year. This might imply that during that year 15.63 billion tons of carbon dioxide (the difference) might have gotten absorbed into the oceans. Other years are sometimes very different from that, and it appears that in some years (like 1980 and 1988) the oceans may have released carbon dioxide. [The measured increase in the atmosphere in those years appeared to be larger than the amounts we had created by fossil fuel burning.] However, such differences could also be due to natural variations in the Carbon Cycle if weather patterns caused plants to either flourish or suffer that year. Much more research and study is necessary in those fields.
That had always been a good thing in the past! Before the Earth had a significant atmosphere, the natural Radiative Equilibrium which existed had necessarily caused the average temperature of the Earth's surface to be around -9°F or -23°C. note 35 That was so cold that very few places even had any liquid water, so life was then essentially impossible. It was only after enough carbon dioxide had been released into the atmosphere (on the order of 280 ppm) that the average temperature of the earth had risen to the 13.75°C or 56.75°F which was true around 1900 AD. note 35 In general, temperatures fluctuated during the existence of the Earth, as we have seen in the Vostok temperature graph for the past 419,000 years, but they have always been conducive to organic life, for several billion years, never terribly different from that 1900 temperature.
Our human activities, during the past 200 years and especially during the most recent 50 years, of mining truly enormous amounts of coal to produce electricity and even more enormous amounts of petroleum and natural gas removed from deep inside the Earth, have released astounding amounts of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The amount in the atmosphere is cumulative, meaning that each extra gallon of gasoline or heating fuel burned sends around eighteen new pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that will stay there for thousands or millions of years note 14.
There was around 2,300 billion tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere around 1900 AD. In the early part of the Twentieth Century, we only burned enough coal, oil and natural gas to add two or three billion new tons to it each year. But the usage and consumption of fossil fuels has increased at a frightening rate, where we now are adding 25 to 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year. Many countries are now even intending to find ways to send even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year! Drilling under the North Pole for oil. Drilling off the California coast, and all over in and around Alaska. And they will certainly succeed. The political force of uncertain energy supplies seems to trump all other considerations. I guess all those Senators and Congressmen are so old that they do not have young children who will die of starvation due to this matter!
In our small addition to the data chart above, we summed up those (current) amounts for the next hundred years. We used the average of 2002-2006, a number of 15.7 billion extra tons being added each year (while we have seen both 25.29 and 31.9 billion tons confirmed generated for different recent years). Assuming that no additional energy production is developed over the next 100 years (yeah, right), we simply multiplied that 15.7 billion tons that we are certainly adding each year to the atmosphere lately by the 100 years of the Twenty-First Century, and we see that we will add around 1,570 billion new tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, so that there will then be around 4,605 billion tons of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere. (For clarity, since the total mass of the atmosphere does not materially change, the total (cumulative) mass of carbon dioxide is always proportional to the concentration in ppmv. Therefore, the 2,304 billion tons of the year 1900 was a concentration of around 296 ppm, while the 3,035 billion tons of today is a concentration of very nearly 390 ppm. And in one hundred years, 2108, there will be the 4,605 billion tons or 586 ppmv concentration present then. However you choose to describe it, we managed to increase the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by about 1/3 during the Twentieth Century, and we are intent on doing far more during the Twenty-First Century. The Earth had never experienced that great of a change or that rapidly, ever before.
We are absolutely insistent on causing even greater changes in this current Century! The current situation, due to past sins, is quite likely to ensure the extermination of human life within around 150 years. note 35 The fact that we still choose to insist on constantly making the situation worse every day, not only guarantees that result, but guarantees that it will happen even sooner. Our selfishness regarding living a comfortable and prosperous life has probably already ensured the soon end of all human life, but the fact that we humans will not "change our ways" and will insist on continuing our modern lifestyles, pretty much will guarantee that your children and grand-children will starve to death when all food supplies end as all plants die of dehydration.
Separate from the horrendous situation of intentionally causing the end of all mankind, the fact that this will be personally applied to children and grandchildren of today is unspeakable.
But that is not likely to ever get that far! As long as we insist on maintaining our modern lifestyles, which includes fossil-fuel powered vehicles (cars, trucks, trains, aircraft, ships, military vehicles) and fossil-fuel heated homes and factories and stores, and fossil-fuel heated industrial processes, we will continue to add at least the current 25 to 30 billion new tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year, which we are now doing. Every year! We have examined the effects of this "simple continuation of the lifestyle that we have all come to expect and insist on."
Even if somehow China and India do not cause increases in the world's consumption of fossil fuels, and all businesses somehow agree to not advance their technologies by using even more fuels, we have therefore to expect to add that 15 to 30 billion tons each year for the next 100 years, or a total added of that 1,570 billion tons, by the year 2108, one hundred years from now. (We are noting here that many small children alive today are likely to still be alive in 100 years, so this directly affects them, and certainly their children.)
This means that we will increase the current 3,035 billion tons in the atmosphere up to 4,605 billion tons, right? Where 3,000 billion tons represents around 390 ppm of the atmosphere, we have seen that 4,605 billion tons represents around 615 ppm.
Look at the Scripps graph above and try to picture where the point (2100 AD, 586 ppm) would be. It would obviously be far above the top of the graph! (the very right edge of that graph represents 2100 AD, and 615 ppm would be about in the text two paragraphs above the graph. We tried to put a red blotch about where it will be. You might notice that the red blotch is right in line with the recent curve of the graph, which confirms this amazing fact.)
Remember that we are considering no new usage and simply a continuation of existing lifestyles. This is the most conservative of realistic possibilities! And still our children will be living in an atmosphere that has at least 615 ppm of carbon dioxide in it!
In case the apparent current Equilibrium temperature of 83°F (28°C) was not sufficient to kill off all human and animal life fast enough (in possibly the 140 years), the fact that we insist on keeping adding more, every year, is certainly speeding up our own extermination! In the event that the linear model used still applied at such high concentrations, the Equilibrium temperature in 2108 projects to be greater than 127°F or 53°C. Even plants like cactus cannot withstand daytime summer temperatures which may be around 190°F (88°C)!
So, just in case the damage that we have already done does not kill us all off quickly enough (maybe 140 years), the fact that "we" would never tolerate any "hardships" regarding energy supplies, will nearly certainly speed this all up to directly cause children living today to die.
Will any giant Corporations stop all their activities? Not a chance. They only think of profits, profits, profits, and so "if people might be affected in a hundred years, our Accountants really do not care! You have no proof!" Will people all be willing to abandon and scrap all cars and trucks, and then walk and ride bicycles to work? Yeah, right! Will people scrap their central air-conditioners and fossil-fuel burning furnaces?
None of that is going to happen, due to human nature!
This means that we are embarked on a rather short journey, quite possibly well shorter than a hundred years, before there will be no food available anywhere on Earth, and the end of all human and animal life on Earth will necessarily soon follow. Young children today will likely see it all end! (and die of starvation as a result.)
If somehow all fossil fuel burning ended today, we have already seen that there is the strong likelihood that the average Earth temperature in 140 years will be too high for nearly any plants to survive, and therefore the entire supply of food will end. And that is due to an Equilibrium Temperature that appears to be around 83°F (28°C). note 35 However, since our insistence on maintaining modern life styles cannot be overcome, the very fact that we will add at least another 1,570 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during the next hundred years will have the effect of constantly increasing that Equilibrium Temperature even more. Whether it rises to 127°F may be uncertain, but each degree it rises simply speeds up the time when no plants will be able to endure. A concentration of 615 ppm that seems certain in 2108 is double what the Earth had generally experienced during the previous billions of years!
In any case, the 140 year delay would still likely apply, to actually get all the way up to the Equilibrium Temperature, but the key factor is actually whenever the Average Earth Temperature rises above a point where plants can no longer survive. Quite a number of Botanists and Agronomists have stated that if the Earth's average temperature ever rises above 80°F (27°C), that virtually no plants will then be able to live. So the question becomes, if we are embarked on a trip where the Average Earth Temperature may approach 127°F in around 140 years, how long will it be until it crosses around 80°F (27°C)? Nothing else will matter after that! Once all plants die, and there is no more food, then the Chapter of Earth's history that is centered on human activities will be closed.
There is obviously no precise way to calculate such a thing, as there are a lot of variables which affect the results. But I have attempted to make the best estimates possible regarding those variables, and the results are terrifying. By around 2090, virtually all of Africa and South America will have no vegetation, no animals and no humans, with the possible exception high on some mountains. Southern Asia seems likely to have the same time scale. Parts of Europe, the US, and Australia may still have a very limited amount of plant life around 2100. The very last plants (and animals and people) may be in northern Siberia and Canada, and living on (iceless) Antarctica.
We have noted that the Vostok data seems to indicate a rather linear relationship between the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the Equilibrium average Earth temperature. There are many other sources of data which support this assumption. The most compelling has to do with the known likely temperature of the Earth before it had an atmosphere (or carbon dioxide in it). That represents the limiting lower case, which then had the Earth's average temperature about -9°F (or -4°F, if a different value of the Earth's early albedo is assumed). Many researchers over the past 30 years have assumed a linear relationship in their estimates of ancient temperatures.
That appears to be a reasonably valid assumption for low concentrations of carbon dioxide. But we have noticed that if the atmosphere acts as a single-layer phenomenon, then the linear relationship would seriously break down as the concentration of carbon dioxide increased. In fact, the link above provides the reasoning where there should be an asymtote of temperature, at around 76.5°F (24.7°C), assuming the single-layer Model is valid. note 68
This would be a wonderful result! It would indicate that no matter how irresponsible we continue to be, that even CO2 concentrations twenty or fifty times higher than today, would not cause the average Earth's temperature to be able to exceed 76.5°F (24.7°C). That seems to imply that (some) plants would continue to be able to live and grow and to be food for animals and humans.
No extensive research has yet been done to determine whether the Earth's atmosphere will behave as a one-layer or multiple-layer phenomena. Frighteningly, we see an example of a planet's atmosphere which is certainly a multiple-layer phenomenon, in Venus, with the result that the surface temperature of Venus is around +860°F (+460°C). We must hope that the far lower concentrations of CO2 that we have might permit a single-layer mode. note 68 note 71
Does this mean that we might as well "live it up" and not worry at all about any of this? By continuing as we have been, and possibly enjoying our last years, maybe human existence on Earth might be shortened to 90 or 80 years from now.
Wow! What a dilemma! To enjoy daily life but always know that the process of doing so is directly causing the end of all human life? To all struggle and suffer in Stone Age lives, knowing that it still all will likely end, but a few decades later? I hope that we each somehow get to vote on that one! I truly have no idea of which I would choose!
The difference between the two is that one has absolutely no chance of survival of human society, and the other might have a tiny chance of some level of survival. The darkly funny part is that Human Nature will certainly choose the course where there is no chance of survival!
I also wonder how angry those people will be in 60 or 80 years, knowing that they were just waiting for everyone to die, and seeing all the movies of us driving around in 6,000 pound SUVs to go some miles to go buy a fifth of alcohol? They will then know that we all are totally responsible for their terrible end. And they will have endless records of movies and photos of the foolish things we now consider necessary! Will such people see any sense in causing a 750,000 pound Boeing 747 airliner to rise to 7 miles high, just because a few hundred people wanted to get to some other city an hour or two earlier? Our portraits will all be on their dartboards! we "did it" to them! And they probably even personally knew many of us that did it!
In theory, there is obviously a third possibility. That a few; some; many; most; or all of humanity could somehow manage to get through this. Since plant growth is the central crisis, maybe it might be possible for a very small number of people to live on Antarctica (the ice will all soon be gone there, and it is a continent, where it might be possible to grow gardens. Most of Africa will likely have noon daytime temperatures above 180°F (80°C), where nothing could survive. Most other countries will not be quite as hot, but still too hot for any plants to grow. But maybe some future researcher might find a way to genetically modify some plants into being able to endure daytime temperatures above 160°F (70°C). Maybe some researchers may be able to discover totally artificial food, where we would then never have to even rely on farming or plants for survival. Personally, I doubt it, because such modified plants would involve really massive increases in the water flow through the plants from the soil, to keep leaves from drying out and dying, and how long could any society exist if it was centered on entirely artificial food and nutrient sources?
So I guess I suspect that some "elite communities" of wealthy people will move to Antarctica, and attempt to maintain human existence there. What will they do? Will their millions and billions of dollars then do them any good? It's hard to see. Yes, they would likely survive several more decades after everyone else is dead. Will that be worth their billions of dollars? Hmmmmm.
We are some piece of work, huh? We were provided an amazing planet, with apparently endless supplies of every possible resource. But in around 3,000 years of what we call civilization, and in around 200 years of what we (proudly) brag about regarding industrialization, we have managed to destroy it all, where it may be millions of years before it is again able to support organic life, as it was when we started fouling it up.
President Bush and most others insist on focusing on energy supplies, no matter what the consequences! He wants to drill thousands of new oil wells in Alaska. All the giant oil companies agree, and they want to also drill oil wells in the Pacific Ocean near California, all over the Gulf of Mexico and countless other places. Russia seems intent on drilling oil wells under the North Pole. Thousands of other locations world-wide for future oil wells are being planned.
The argument is always the same, of "finding new supplies of the petroleum and supplies of energy that all of our modern societies are dependent on. That is the only desirable aspect of trying to extract every drop of petroleum from the entire Earth. The USA is certainly going to go gung-ho at mining coal at ever increasing rates. Canada has massive amounts of oil-shale that will certainly be mined and processed. Not much is going to deter those efforts, especially just the comments of some Nuclear Physicist!
In an astounding demonstration of ignorance, all people today seem to choose to believe that it somehow "goes away", but it actually does not! There is no "Carbon Fairy!"
What this means is that every gallon of gasoline that you burn in your vehicle, which sends around another 18 new pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, has that effect which is essentially permanent.
This is a one-way street! We add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere when we burn any fossil fuels (petroleum/gasoline/diesel/heating oil, natural gas, or coal), and it never leaves.
So the effect is cumulative in the atmosphere.
The linked article shows calculations that suggest this is likely to happen with the current 410 ppm concentration in around 140 years, around 2150 AD. Humans and animals may no longer be able to survive on Earth after that date, except possibly in small numbers near the South Pole.
But now remember that we humans do not seem satisfied with only increasing the concentration to the current 410 ppm! At current rates of fossil fuel burning, we showed the simple and obvious logic above that we will have increased the concentration to over 615 ppm in just 100 years!
It is as though we humans are not satisfied with still having maybe 140 years of human existence left, we want to shorten it even more! As long as we today can live it up!
So, in an astounding lust for more and more power today, and more and more financial profits for the giant energy corporations, it is as though no one really cares that the small children of today might likely die due to the direct consequences. But no one today seems to really care about "the future", as long as they have cheap gasoline and endless energy supplies, and as long as there are billion dollar profits for those who provide those needs.
This year (2008), we humans are adding around 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. How much is that? Well, say that we find some way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, process it, compress it, and pump it into semi-tanker trucks. How many trucks would we need? A tanker truck can contain around 20 tons of liquid and nearly as much highly compressed gas. IF we don't really intend to actually try to reduce the concentration but rather simply process the new carbon dioxide we are adding, that means we would need (30,000,000,000 / 20 or) 1,500,000,000 full truckloads to even move all that compressed carbon dioxide gas! Of course, 1,500,000,000 truckloads would burn up a lot of Diesel fuel if they actually needed to haul it any distance! And the compressors to squeeze all that gas, and the giant pumps necessary to move it into the tanker trucks, and all the other equipment required? all of those things run on fossil-fuels, and therefore they would each and all be adding to the problem they were trying to solve.
Want to guess at the labor costs of driving 1,500,000,000 truckloads to any destination, and the millions of other people necessary to handle, load and process all the different steps of this activity? Even buying the million trucks and pressurized tanker trailers is a considerable expense, as well as maintaining them.
So the people who get on TV to announce some new method or process of removing carbon dioxide, are able to show their ideas in a Laboratory, but they have never actually considered the scale of this problem. And these paragraphs have not even considered actually trying to reduce the problem but merely processing the new carbon dioxide that we insist on creating by burning fossil fuels!
Human nature has always been based on hope. Some solution is always expected to turn up. It appears that we have finally encountered a problem that is too large for us to even dream of dealing with, and it will result in the end of human life on Earth. And there is not a damn thing that anyone can do to stop it.
These various concepts are undesirable to Corporation Executives and world leaders, because they each enable individuals to provide for their own needs, and not be dependent on powerful distant people to make decisions.
If all six billion people on the planet would choose to use these methods, and if all businesses and corporations would choose to eliminate promotion of and use of fossil fuels, including all coal-fired electric plants (which supply around 51% of all the electricity now used in the USA), in theory, it might be possible to eliminate adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Note that would not solve our problem, but merely keep it from getting far worse! But we all know that is not going to happen anyway. Yes, a few people will choose to use concepts such as these, but they are such a tiny fraction of all the people on Earth, that it would be rather meaningless.
Astoundingly, even if businesses and leaders and citizens really fully comprehended that the end of all human life is at hand, most will not actually do anything, especially if they think that it might be less profitable or less comfortable or more of a bother. So even though a FEW people will realize these matters and try to do something, there are so many people on Earth who will not, that the human adventure on Earth is essentially over. This says something about human nature, doesn't it? Since the consequences are not "next week", they are seen as irrelevant and to be ignored. Let the next guy deal with such problems! No need to even think about such things!
Since that will not happen, then each additional year's 20 or 30 billion or more tons of carbon dioxide emissions just drives more nails into the coffin of humanity. The 1% possible chance will constantly get smaller and smaller each year. And we will merrily bop along, each claiming that we are too tiny to cause any harm, so we will each continue as always. It is really amazing.
There has been virtually no research done regarding how much carbon dioxide is in the deep oceans, or what the possible implications might be if we tried to change it very much. A few experiments have been tried (beginning around 1999) but they have generally been failures. Those experiments attempted to bubble carbon dioxide up through ocean water, expecting that the carbon dioxide in the bubbles would dissolve into the water as the bubbles rose. That only partially occurred. Shortly after that process would begin, they discovered that a "rind" formed around each bubble, which then separated the carbon dioxide inside the bubble from the ocean water outside it.
However, the general concept is still very important. And some scientists, even without any facts or evidence at all, choose to believe that most of the carbon dioxide that humans are putting into the air will quickly get dissolved into the oceans. If they turn out to be right, then we have no problems at all! At least the way that some of the scientists describe it! But keep in mind that there is no experimental evidence to support their line of logic. In fact, there are two lines of logic that seem to completely disable their optimism. (1) One is that the oceans have been around for around four billion years, and they certainly have gotten to some equilibrium condition between the atmosphere and the oceans regarding concentration of carbon dioxide. Yes, as we are increasing the amount in the atmosphere, we are affecting that equilibrium, and certainly are causing some additional carbon dioxide to be being absorbed into the oceans. But no one had any way of knowing whether that pursuit of equilibrium will take ten years or a hundred thousand years. And reasonable assumptions in the calculations suggest that the total amount of added dissolved carbon dioxide may be relatively minimal. A few paragraphs down, there is a discussion on the likely massive release of carbon dioxide from the oceans as the waters warm even a single degree, and that effect seems to entirely overwhelm any possible advantage regarding dissolving more of our contributions to the atmosphere.
(2) Is even more logically compelling. When we carefully examine the two graphs of the Vostok data, we see that many times in the past 420,000 years, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere behaved as it should with minimal effect of added or reduced solution in the oceans. That data and those graphs seem to imply that the very optimistic views of those scientists who want to believe that the oceans will simply dissolve all of our errors, are probably not correct.
There is a third reason as well. Most of the water in the oceans is rather deep. It has been found that that very deep water seems to travel rather slowly. Water that had been near Antarctica, which had become extremely cold, then sank to the bottom of the main oceans (due to density differences) and that very cold water is now slowly making its way northward! This results in extremely cold water at the very bottom of the Pacific Ocean, even relatively near the Equator! The important point here is that the flow rates seem to be so slow that the time scale for very much carbon dioxide being able to (somehow) become dissolved, figures to be many thousands of years, because it will be that long before that water ever warms enough to rise and get near enough to the surface to be able to capture any dissolved carbon dioxide.
I find one specific thing especially interesting and curious. We do not know much about most of the deep parts of the oceans. In tiny areas, we have lowered manned and unmanned submersibles, and so we get data for a single vertical line through the ocean at that point. In many of those dives, it has been found that the water cools at deeper depths so that below around 2000 feet, nearly all the deep ocean water seems to be at temperatures that are very close to freezing. That does not seem very logical! The surface of the oceans definitely have a temperature comparable with the average air temperature at that location - over the entire surface of the world's oceans, that should be roughly 59°F or 15°C. The body of the Earth is heated from its interior by radioactive decay in the Earth's Core, so the bottom of the ocean is likely to have an equilibrium temperature that is at least that high. So how could most of the water between these two sources of warmth all be as cold as we think it is? It does not really seem to make good sense, and there seems certain to be some facts that we do not currently know about or understand. It is certainly true that when water is heated its density gets lower and the water rises. This certainly causes lamination of water in the oceans, where the warm water tends to stay near the surface and the coldest water tends to stay very deep near the bottom. But the ocean waters cannot be colder than all of the surrounding sources (due to the Laws of Thermodynamics). It is pretty certain that we know a partial explanation, mentioned below, regarding water getting colder near Antarctica and sinking to the bottom of the oceans and then flowing northward. But water is a fairly good conductor of thermal heat, and it seems hard to believe that all the ocean's deep waters could have avoided receiving heat from either the hotter ocean floor or the hotter surface layers. How could all that water stay so cold? No one yet really has any very good ideas about that!
I am tempted to wonder if this trending is due to a consistent reduction of available carbon dioxide due to formation of calcium carbonate (limestone), peat, petroleum and the like. If so, that slope, of around 25 ppmv per 400,000 years might give us an estimate of the rate that such processes might be occurring. We know from the analysis above that change of 25 ppmv represents around 190 billion tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If we assume that all other processes average out over time, that might therefore indicate that 190 billion tons of carbon dioxide became chemically bonded and therefore removed from the Carbon Cycle, over the 420,000 years of the data. That might suggest that just under half a million tons of carbon dioxide gets naturally removed from the atmosphere each year.
(If this is valid, then this natural removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is only around 1/60,000 as fast as we are currently adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere!)
There seems that a related similar possibility might exist. The Vostok data seems to show four separate shorter periods of even faster reduction of carbon dioxide, with relatively rapid interruptions of increases in between. If we interpret the slope of the four sections as representing the natural removal of carbon dioxide by those chemical processes, the greater slope indicates faster action. Around 100 ppmv per 170,000 years applies, which is around 9 times as fast as calculated above, which would represent around four million tons of carbon dioxide being removed from the Carbon cycle each year.
The four rather rapid upsurges in carbon dioxide seem to also be a pattern which requires some potential explanation. Whether they are due to astronomic factors such as the changes in the ellipticity of the Earth's orbit around the Sun or many other possible causes might inspire useful science.
We know that carbon dioxide is extremely soluble in water, especially in cold water. The Handbook of Chemistry and Physics tells us that water at 0°C can dissolve 1.713 cubic meters of carbon dioxide into each cubic meter of water, an amazing amount.
If that water is instead at 1°C, just one degree warmer, it can dissolve considerably less, 1.646 cubic meter of carbon dioxide. And if raised to 10°C (which is 50°F), far less yet, at 1.194 cubic meter. If raised even further, to 20°C (which is 68°F), far less yet, at 0.878, only around half what can be contained at 0°C!
The oceans contain around 1.1 * 1018 cubic meters of water. This is also around 1.1 * 1018 metric tons of water. Therefore, if all the ocean waters were at 0°C, they could contain an astounding amount of carbon dioxide in them as dissolved gas, around 1.9 * 1018 cubic meters of carbon dioxide (at STP). Since one cubic meter of carbon dioxide (at STP) is around 1.8 kg, we are talking about 3.6 * 1018 kg or 3.6 * 1015 metric tonnes. For comparison with numbers discussed above, this is 3,600,000 billion tons! Remember that the entire atmosphere currently contains around 3,000 billion tons and that we are adding about 30 billion tons each year. Even the entire Carbon Cycle, of the Photosynthesis processes of all plants on Earth, only remove and replace about 300 billion tons each year.
In other words, the potential capacity for the ocean's waters to contain (and absorb) carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (and therefore from our burning of fossil fuels???) could be a thousand times greater than the capacity of the atmosphere itself! (people have already long known that!)
(By the way, no one actually knows the average temperature of the ocean's waters! It might seem logical to assume that it is around the 13°C of the current average temperature of the surface of the Earth. But deep ocean probes seem to nearly always find the water to be near 0°C, with the accepted explanation being that it is due to water that had sunk near Antarctica and is slowly flowing across the ocean bottoms. What is the average temperature of all the oceans' waters? It is something that is yet to be researched! It seems to have recently become a critically important fact to know, and yet we are still ignorant of it!)
However, it has to be assumed that over the history of the Earth, the oceans must have already absorbed the correct amount of carbon dioxide to already be at or near an equilibrium amount. There may or may not be any additional capacity for absorption of carbon dioxide into the oceans.
The far more interesting, and potentially important, aspect of this is the difference which would occur with changes to the temperature of the oceans! Say that all the waters in all the oceans rose by just 1°C. Each cubic meter of that water would then be able to only contain 1.646 cubic meter of dissolved carbon dioxide rather than 1.713. Therefore, as that water warmed up that one degree in temperature, it would necessarily have to release the difference of 0.0067 cubic meter of carbon dioxide. That is therefore about 7.5 * 1015 cubic meters of carbon dioxide (at STP) or 13,500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide which would be released! (In comparison, all of our current burning of fossil fuels in a year is adding only around 1/500 of that amount!)
Please note that these figures refer to the maximum solubility of carbon dioxide in the oceans. When sufficient data is obtained, we will certainly discover that the actual amount is far less than that.
Putting it another way, if the entire mass of ocean water would rise by about two one-thousandths of a degree C (0.002°C), and if all that water was already fully saturated with carbon dioxide, the amount of carbon dioxide that would necessarily be released to the atmosphere would be about the same as all the damage we are doing today with burning fossil fuels!
The point here is that we really have very little idea what we are doing to this planet! Before five years ago, few people seemed to even give any concern regarding fossil-fuel burning and global warming. If there should now be a factor that is a thousand times larger which no one has even ever thought about, then we really are playing with fire with no knowledge of the consequences!
So! We are beginning to realize that we should worry about many things that had never gotten attention before. But it may turn out that what we should really be concerned about is the average temperature of the oceans' waters! If our activities should raise the entire oceans by even 1°C, we thereby might cause 7.5 * 1015 cubic meters of carbon dioxide (at STP) to become released from the (fully saturated) waters of the world's oceans, WOW!
Continuing our math (density), that would be around 13.5 * 1015 kg or 13.5 * 1012 tons of carbon dioxide going into the Earth's atmosphere. Given that the entire Earth's atmosphere is 5.136 * 1015 tons, it would seem to cause an increase in the current 390 ppmv concentration up to around 2,200 ppmv!
If we are worried about the effects of the current 410 ppmv or even a coming 615 ppmv in a hundred years, no one will want to even contemplate if the oceans warm up and release so much carbon dioxide as to cause 2,200 ppmv.
There is an important aspect of data needed here that I have not been able to find any source of! Is the ocean water currently saturated with carbon dioxide, or if not, to what level of saturation currently exists? Again, the long age of the Earth seems to ensure that an equilibrium must have been established far before now. Different researchers seem to express amazingly different opinions regarding how much carbon dioxide is in the deep oceans! This information is important in order to try to predict how much future carbon dioxide will be able to be absorbed into the oceans. It is critical that we set up many research projects to learn what the real values are.
Survival Ark - 60-Acre Hexagonal Artificial Island.
Of course, such a concept might only have occurred to a person who sees such a desperate situation where no other possible course seems to enable survival of mankind. It might therefore simply be a really stupid idea from a desperate mind! It is included here as a possible "seed" to suggest that maybe we will be able to find some kind of solutions.
So, for example, in 1998, official reports describe that the US sent 1,494.0 MMTCe of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We therefore need to multiply this value by 3.667 to get 5.498 billion tons of actual carbon dioxide that the US emitted that year. Since official documents indicate that was 24.3% of the world total, we can then see that the entire world emitted 22.63 billion tons of carbon dioxide that year.
You might have noted that there was only a 19.48 billion tons increase in the atmosphere that year. Where did the other three billion tons go to? It turns out that carbon dioxide is extremely soluble in cold water, and that year, 3 billion tons of it was absorbed into the oceans. This brings up another important matter, the fact that the solubility of carbon dioxide in water is extremely dependent on the temperature of the water, with the greatest solubility being in very cold water. When the temperature of the water changes by just a single degree (C), the solubility can change by around 5%. This means that even rather small changes in ocean temperatures can cause enormous amounts of extra carbon dioxide to be absorbed in the oceans or released from the oceans! Things like El Nino and La Nina change the temperature of large areas of ocean, which seems certain to have huge secondary effects on the carbon dioxide balance. I have never seen any researchers yet address this issue.
So there is yet another dreadful consequence of the Earth rising even one degree C in temperature, that massive additional carbon dioxide will then be released from the ocean waters, compounding the entire problem even more!
There are an assortment of different things that can be meant by this popular phrase. Unless you know the rules used in generating a specific number, the number might not have much meaning!
Published records showed that the US emitted a total of 5.498 billion tons of actual carbon dioxide in 1998. (of a world total of 18.96 billion tons.) There were then around 300 million of us in the United States, so we might fairly say that we each, man, woman and child, caused the emission of around 18.33 tons of carbon dioxide, (5498/300) so one might say that each American (including little babies!) had a Carbon Footprint of over 18 tons (of carbon dioxide) in 1998. It appears that BBC News uses this definition, referring to a carbon footprint of 20 tons for each American (and 14 tons for each European and around 10 tons for each Chinese).
However, the US changed policy some years back and decided to only count the carbon atoms in that carbon dioxide, which makes for a somewhat smaller number! Atomic Carbon is actually about 27% of carbon dioxide by weight. By only counting the carbon atoms, they can therefore also correctly say that each American was responsible for about 5 tons of actual carbon atoms that were sent into the atmosphere (but all of them were as carbon dioxide atoms, and not one was ever a loose carbon atom! So the reason for the change of description appears to have been entirely political, just to make it appear that the US was not sending such extraordinary amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere! In any case, there are some people who use this peculiar method of description to say that we Americans are each responsible for a Carbon Footprint of around 5 tons each year. There are also people who see that 82% of that carbon dioxide production is directly due to the combined usage of motor vehicles and the creation of electricity, and those people ignore our heating our homes and only say that we each are responsible for about 15 tons of carbon dioxide or 4 tons of carbon equivalent. You can see that there is quite a range of numbers which can correctly be applied here. Also, I am not so sure that tiny babies should be blamed for this, and it might be more correct to describe a household footprint for the 80 million families (of usually two parents and about two children) in the US. In that case, the appropriate number for a household carbon footprint might be described as being either around 70 tons of carbon dioxide or 20 tons of carbon equivalent.
Given that we are the ultimate beneficiaries of all the electricity generated in the US and of all the vehicle traffic, but that we also primarily heat our homes and buildings with the rest, a case can be made that charitability of reducing the numbers might be inappropriate!
For this presentation, we use a very conservative 45 tons of carbon dioxide or 12 tons of carbon equivalent per family.
The 12 ton number essentially ignores the actual carbon dioxide and instead talk about the (somewhat hypothetical) MMTCe number. That number does not even refer to any real chemical, but instead tries to use the quantity of Elemental carbon that is present. We feel that saying that each American family is responsible for a 45 ton Footprint of carbon dioxide is most correct and descriptive.
We mention that, in 1998, official reports describe that the US sent 1,494.0 MMTCe of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This would be 1,494 million metric tons which we might try to allocate among the 300 million of us that then were Americans. Dividing, we then confirm that each American had a Carbon (equivalent) Footprint of 1,494/300 or about 5 tons of carbon. However, the reality is no different! A family with two children would still be blamed for 4 * 5 or 20 tons of elemental carbon, or the equivalent of 20 * (44/12) 73 actual tons of carbon dioxide, each year. We have used very conservative figures in the 45 actual tons that we discuss here.
These comments are meant to confirm that the figures for numbers of tons added to the atmosphere in the table above are accurate, as they agree with other ways used to describe our CO2 emissions.
Chemically: C + O2 gives CO2 plus energy,
or carbon plus oxygen from the air gives carbon dioxide back to the air and energy.
(If there is sulfur mixed into the coal, then there is also Chemically: S + H2O + O2 gives H2SO3, which is sulfurous acid, which causes acid rain.)
There are many different types of coal that exist, and they each have different chemical compositions. However, the coals that are most usable as fuels tend to have at least 80% carbon in them Our coal is therefore about 80% Carbon.
A pound of coal therefore contains very close to 0.8 pound of carbon in it. If it is burned extremely completely, we can assume that all that carbon will combine with oxygen from the air to form carbon dioxide. Using atomic weights again, we see that carbon dioxide is 12 + 16 + 16 or 44, since oxygen is 16. When the 12 weights of carbon is burned (oxidized), it therefore forms 44 weights of carbon dioxide. We had 4/5 pound of carbon to start with so we multiply 4/5 * 44/12 to get 44/15 or 2.93 pound of carbon dioxide formed for each pound of coal burned.
We can examine the official Reports for any year, regarding the consumption of coal in that year. Such Reports tell us that 2.148 * 109 metric tons of oil equivalent of coal was burned in the year 2000 (worldwide). Such Reports give oil-equivalent numbers, because different kinds of coal have rather different energy contents. If we take oil to contain around 19,500 Btus per pound and an average coal to contain around 13,000 Btus per pound, we then have to multiply by 1.5 (or 19,500/13,000) to get the actual amount of tons of coal burned. Therefore we have 3.22 * 109 metric tons of coal burned in 2000.
We just determined that each pound of that coal creates 2.93 pounds of carbon dioxide when it burns. Therefore, in the year 2000, the amount of coal that was burned produced 3.22 * 2.93 * 109 metric tons or 9.44 * 109 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
This year (2008), the massive increases in coal burning in China to produce electricity and to power their many factories indicates that at least 4.5 * 109 metric tons of coal is being burned, which is creating about 13.2 * 109 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Production of electricity from coal
The United States currently produces around 51% of the electricity it uses by burning coal. The coal heats water into steam, which is sent into steam turbines, which spin giant alternators that create the alternating current electricity that we use.
Consider starting with two pounds of coal, which we just discussed contains around 2 * 14,000 Btus of chemical energy in it, 28,000 Btus total. In electrical energy terms, that is about 8.2 kWh of available chemical energy.
As the two pounds of coal is burned, we learned above that 2.93 * 2 pounds or 5.86 pounds of carbon dioxide is formed.
It is not possible to burn coal with perfect efficiency, and it is also not possible to transfer all the heat created into forming steam from water. The mechanisms of the steam turbine and the electrical and magnetic fields of the alternator are also not of perfect efficiency. The net effect of all of this is that roughly 30% of the original energy in the coal is converted into actual electricity. (Nuclear powered plants are slightly more efficient, at around 32%, and fuel oil powered and natural gas powered plants are slightly less efficient, generally around 28% or 29%.) Much of the remaining 70% is intentionally thrown away by cooling towers or equivalent equipment.
In any event, we now have 30% of the 28,000 Btus from our two pounds of coal as actual electricity, or 8,400 Btus, which is 2.46 kWh of actual electricity produced. This electricity then has to go through transformers to raise its voltage up high enough to be reasonably efficient in high-voltage transmission lines. It then is sent through such high-tension wires. The standard design rules are to design such lines so that 90% of the electricity put in one end of a 60-mile long stretch will come out the other end. Ten percent of the electricity is therefore lost as resistance heating by the wires, in every sixty miles of such lines. Once in a city, more transformers are used to lower the voltage to around 12,000 volts, for the lines that are up and down every street on utility poles. Then there is another transformer near your house that lowers that voltage even more to the 240 volts and 120 volts that you actually use in your house.
It turns out that all those transformers and especially all those wires have quite a bit of losses in them. There is yet another big problem! Electric power plants must constantly produce more electricity than is actually called for at any moment! Just in case millions of people all decide to make toast at the same instant! Or for the more common situation where millions of people get home from work and all turn on their central air conditioners. This results in really large losses of available electricity (which cannot be stored in any way as the alternating current that arrives at our houses.)
For an average home at an average distance from an electric powerplant, roughly 60% of the electricity put in the wires at the powerplant gets wasted as resistance heating and magnetic losses (much of which is lost as that electricity which must be created but will never be used), and as assorted other consumptions which are necessary to maintain a constant supply of electricity for unexpected needs. All the millions of streetlights which are on all night every night might not technically need to be on, but the powerplants must create a substantial amount of electricity production at all times, and that happens to be a convenient way to use some of it up. So only around 40% of that electricity produced and put into the wires actually gets to our houses!
The overall efficiency of the entire coal-fired electricity generation and distribution system is therefore 30% * 40% or around 12%! Thirteen percent is a more commonly used value, really a disappointingly low percentage!
Since we are tracking the electricity from our two pounds of coal, we now find that only around 8,400 * 40% or 3,360 Btus of electricity actually gets to our house! And since 3,412 Btus is equal to one kiloWatt-hour, we have now found that each one kWh of electricity available at our homes required that two pounds of coal was burned up in that distant coal-fired powerplant. Saying this another way, for every kiloWatt-hour of electricity that you use up, there is about 5.86 pounds of carbon dioxide that gets added to the atmosphere at that distant coal-fired electric power plant.
If your own monthly electric bill shows a modest usage of 500 kWh, that means that you are responsible for 500 * 5.86 or 2930 pounds of carbon dioxide that month, about a ton and a half. In the year, that is around 18 tons of carbon dioxide. (This usage is not usually counted in the Carbon Footprint estimates!)
This burning of coal to produce electricity is the primary reason that coal is consumed in the US, so it accounts for most of the annual totals discussed above regarding coal burning.
We can use the information we just learned to find how much carbon dioxide that an electric powerplant releases in order to duplicate the power in one gallon of gasoline. There are actually two different ways we can do this. (1) We know that a gallon of gasoline contains around 126,000 Btus (or around 37 kWh) of chemical energy in it. We just determined that two pounds of coal burned in an electric plant can be expected to provide around 0.98 kWh of electric power at our home. That electricity that arrives at our home then needs to go through a battery charger and then into a chemical lead-acid battery, with both processes having less than ideal efficiencies. The result is that around 0.64 kWh of electric energy is actually put into the batteries (from those two pounds of coal that were burned). When an electric vehicle or hybrid then uses that electricity stored in the batteries, the efficiency of the batteries are again in effect, as well as wiring, the electric motors, gears, shafts, and other mechanisms to actually make the tires of a vehicle rotate. The result is that around 0.42 kWh of actual electric energy gets used to move the vehicle.
It turns out that modern gasoline-powered vehicles are generally around 21% efficient. Therefore, of the 37 kWh of chemical energy in a gallon of gasoline, only around 7.7 kWh actually gets used to move the vehicle. We can therefore easily see that (7.7 kWh / 0.42 kWh) or about 18.5 groups of two-pounds of or 37 pounds of coal would need to be burned (at the distant electric power plant) to duplicate the actual useful benefit in a gallon of gasoline! We can also see that 18.5 groups of 5.86 pounds of carbon dioxide would be released from that coal burned, or 108 pounds of carbon dioxide! This all applies to Electric Vehicles (battery-power), Hybrid Vehicles that plug into house electricity, or (future) Hydrogen-powered Fuel Cell vehicles. A terrible situation!
We note (and calculate in a different Footnote) that an existing gasoline-powered vehicle only releases around 18.3 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for each gallon of gasoline burned. note 1 We find it rather bizarre that politicians and the public considers it to be Green to consider electric battery-powered vehicles and hybrids, where they directly cause 108 pounds of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere, six times as much as the gasoline-powered vehicle causes in the first place! Is that Green???
If, instead, a battery-powered or hydrogen-powered or hybrid vehicle was used, we see that 108 pounds of carbon dioxide has to be released from the distant electric powerplant in order to provide the necessary electricity! Much of this is due to the fact that there are so many separate processes involved, and EACH of those processes each are less than 100% efficient. It all adds up!
So even though all the publicity and the excitement is around battery-powered vehicles being so Green, and that future hydrogen-powered vehicles will be the same, the fact that they have to receive their re-charging electricity from distant coal-fired electric powerplants actually makes them horribly un-Green! Around six times as much carbon dioxide must be released into the atmosphere due to any electric powered vehicle than if the vehicle had had a standard gasoline engine! This is not to praise gasoline engines, as they are terribly inefficient! But the public is quite mislead by the people who are aggressively promoting electric vehicles and future hydrogen vehicles! The central claim on which people would be willing to buy such vehicles turns out to not be true (because the source of the electricity is from burning coal). IF the electricity could be gotten from solar or wind or hydroelectric, fine, they would be excellent! But it turns out that the practical matters in both solar PV operation and in wind turbine operation, make them very unlikely to actually ever provide all the miraculous claims made for them, at least for probably the next 50 years. We must remember that 51% of all the huge amount of electricity used in the United States is now produced by burning coal.
The fact that the electric powerplant is many miles away seems to be the reason that people feel they can ignore whatever happens there! But it turns out that really bad things regarding carbon dioxide occur any time we want any electricity, whether for powering a vehicle or for making toast!
Burning Petroleum, Gasoline, Heating Oil, Jet Fuel, Diesel, Etc
Chemically: C + O2 gives CO2 plus energy,
or carbon plus oxygen from the air gives carbon dioxide back to the air and energy.
There are many different types of petroleum which is pumped out of the ground. They all are primarily Carbon in composition, with the best varieties tending to be chemically around 85% Carbon. A pound of crude petroleum or its distilled products, gasoline, diesel fuel, home heating oil, jet fuel, kerosene, etc, therefore contains very close to 0.85 pound of carbon in it. If it is burned extremely completely, we can assume that all that carbon will combine with oxygen from the air to form carbon dioxide. Using atomic weights again, we see that carbon dioxide is 12 + 16 + 16 or 44, since oxygen is 16. When the 12 weights of carbon is burned (oxidized), it therefore forms 44 weights of carbon dioxide. We had 0.85 pound of carbon to start with so we multiply 0.85 * 44/12 to get 3.12 pound of carbon dioxide formed for each pound of Petroleum burned.
We can examine the official Reports for any year, regarding the consumption of Petroleum in that year. Such Reports tell us that 3.54 * 109 metric tons of petroleum in the year 2000 (worldwide). If the Reports give the consumption in barrels instead, 7.33 barrels equals one metric ton. We just determined that each pound of that petroleum creates 3.12 pounds of carbon dioxide when it burns. Therefore, in the year 2000, the amount of petroleum that was burned produced 3.54 * 3.12 * 109 metric tons or 11.04 * 109 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
This year (2008), we are burning up around 30 billion barrels of petroleum, which is about 4.1 * 109 metric tons of petroleum, which is creating about 12.8 * 109 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Combustion of Gasoline
We can also consider gasoline by the gallon instead of the pound. One gallon of gasoline weighs around 6 pounds. Around 5.0 pounds of that is due to the carbon atoms in the complex carbohydrate molecules. When the Carbon atoms oxidize/burn they combine with oxygen from the air to form carbon dioxide. The ratio of the amounts are 12 grams of carbon combines with 2 * 16 grams of oxygen to form 44 grams of carbon dioxide. This means that we end up with 44/12 times as much carbon dioxide as we had carbon to start with (if the combustion is complete). In our case, starting with 5.0 pounds of carbon, the gallon of gasoline therefore forms about 5.0 * 44/12 or about 18.3 pounds of carbon dioxide when it is burned. (Some people describe this as 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide due to each gallon of gasoline burned. The slight difference of these numbers is due to variant forms of gasoline used, such as gasoline which is some percentage Ethanol, and some winter chemical additions.)
Burning Natural Gas
Chemically: C + O2 gives CO2 and also 4 H + O2 gives 2 H2O plus energy,
or carbon plus oxygen from the air gives carbon dioxide back to the air and hydrogen plus oxygen from the air gives water vapor and energy.
Natural Gas is nearly all Methane gas. That is chemically CH4. From Chemistry, we know that the Carbon atom has an atomic weight of 12 and each Hydrogen has one. The Methane molecule therefore has a total atomic weight of 16 (12 + 4). It is therefore 12 / 16 or 3 / 4 or 75% Carbon.
A pound of Natural Gas therefore contains very close to 3/4 pound of carbon in it. If it is burned extremely completely, we can assume that all that carbon will combine with oxygen from the air to form carbon dioxide. Using atomic weights again, we see that carbon dioxide is 12 + 16 + 16 or 44, since oxygen is 16. When the 12 weights of carbon is burned (oxidized), it therefore forms 44 weights of carbon dioxide. We had 3/4 pound of carbon to start with so we multiply 3/4 * 44/12 to get 11/4 or 2.75 pound of carbon dioxide formed for each pound of Natural Gas burned.
Promoters of selling natural gas claim spectacular improvements regarding not sending as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than petroleum or gasoline. It is nearly completely a lie! Yes, it is better, only sending 2.75 pounds of carbon dioxide released, compared to 3.12 pounds from each pound of petroleum burned or 3.05 pounds from each pound of gasoline, but the benefit is mighty minimal!
We can examine the official Reports for any year, regarding the consumption of Natural Gas in that year. Such Reports tell us that 2.438 * 1012 cubic meters of natural gas was burned in the year 2000 (worldwide). We use the density of Natural Gas (Methane) (0.7168 gram/liter) to calculate that this amount is 1.74 * 109 metric tons of Natural Gas. We just determined that each pound of that natural gas creates 2.75 pounds of carbon dioxide when it burns. Therefore, in the year 2000, the amount of natural gas that was burned produced 1.74 * 2.75 * 109 metric tons or 4.81 * 109 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
This year (2008), we are burning up about 3 trillion cubic meters of Natural Gas, which is about 2.1 * 109 metric tons of Natural Gas, which is creating about 5.9 * 109 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Nature constantly recirculates Carbon throughout the biosphere. Using the energy from sunlight, plants perform the process of Photosynthesis to create new plant materials. Whether this is done in trees, bushes, grasses weeds or other land plants, or in algae or seaweed or other water plants, the process is generally always the same. Carbon dioxide from the air is chemically combined with water from the soil (or sometimes directly from the air) to create complex carbohydrate molecules. The Photosynthesis process usually proceeds by this chemical reaction:
(6) CO2 + (6) H2O + energy from sunlight → C6H12O6 + (6) O2
The complex carbohydrate is a chemical called glucose. A wonderful side effect is that oxygen is also given off, which we are then able to breathe!
Plants then use that glucose and chemically convert it into all the thousands of other organic carbohydrate molecules on which all life depends.
In Biochemistry, we know that to form "one mole" of glucose, the plant needs to absorb 686 Kilo-calories of sunlight energy. A mole is the total atomic weight (in grams) of any chemical molecule, so we can add up the 6 Cs (each weigh 12) and 12 Hs (each weigh 1) and 6 Os (each weigh 16), to find that a mole of glucose is 180 grams. We therefore know exactly how much sunlight energy was required to create any amount of new plant material created from the carbon dioxide and water.
Here is a simplified presentation of the basic biochemistry involved. It shows the arrangement of the chemical bonds in the glucose molecule, as well as the actual bond strengths of each of the bonds, which shows the theoretical basis for the 686 kCal of energy that is absorbed from sunlight during photosynthesis and released again during decomposition or respiration.
If you add up the total weights of the six carbon dioxide molecules that were used up, you can see that they weigh a total of 264 grams.
The Carbon Cycle is a cycle because, when the plants later die, they then naturally decompose (or which also occurs during a common process called Respiration) (with the help of many types of bacteria) back into carbon dioxide and water (or water vapor, the same thing). After an entire Cycle has occurred, the amount of Carbon has not significantly changed.
On the entire Earth, there is roughly 100 billion tons of Carbon involved with the Carbon Cycle each year. We notice that it accounts for 72 (6 * 12) of the weight of the glucose's 180 weight. Since the Carbon Cycle intimately involves the production of glucose, we can therefore know that 180/72 * 100 billion or about 250 billion tons of glucose is produced each year by all the world's plants. In the process, they REMOVE about 264/72 * 100 billion or around 350 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the Earth's atmosphere (and create 192/72 * 100 billion or 260 billion tons of oxygen which we might then breathe!).
So, Briefly, the Carbon Cycle, the total plant life on the Earth, removes a large amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
However, those plants all eventually die, and when they do, that 250 billion tons of glucose decomposes. The decomposition process then uses up the 260 billion tons of oxygen again and the glucose decomposes back into the original 350 billion tons of carbon dioxide and the original 150 billion tons of water.
No net advantage or disadvantage occurs regarding amounts of carbon or carbon dioxide or anything else occurs due to the Carbon Cycle. In fact, the exact same weight (mass) of each of the Elements always exists, around 100 billion tons of carbon, 17 billion tons of hydrogen and 400 billion tons of oxygen. The chemical processes of photosynthesis and decomposition just change the appearance as different atoms combine in different molecular combinations.
The entire Carbon Cycle and the entire field of Biochemistry is more complicated than this simplified discussion might indicate. But the basics are all exactly as described here.
The Carbon Cycle therefore recirculates all the carbon and carbon dioxide that is available, without ever increasing the amounts, except briefly by chemically converting the carbon dioxide (gas) into and out of parts of plants. When we burn fossil fuels, it is entirely different! We are digging up chemicals which are mostly carbon which have been buried for many millions of years. That carbon had therefore been out of the atmosphere and the Carbon Cycle for those millions of years. The fact that we dig/pump it all up and then burn it, means that we are doing what is called oxidation:
C + O2 which gives CO2.
This is new carbon dioxide which could not have been created except for the fact that we chose to burn the fossil fuels. Once we have created this new carbon dioxide, it is essentially around forever (at least millions of years) and it is now free in the Earth's atmosphere.
Where the Carbon Cycle never increased the total carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (except temporarily), our burning of fossil fuels is increasing the total carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, on an accumulating quantity and essentially with forever consequences.
Of the hundreds of chemical methods we know of which can remove carbon dioxide from air, one seems to be far more promising than any others. It was invented around a hundred fifty years ago.
The Solvay Process is still used around the world, related to production of salt, glass, soap, detergent and centrally, sodium carbonate. It uses salt water (brine) and ammonia and carbon dioxide to produce sodium bicarbonate and ammonium chloride. As carbon dioxide is bubbled up through the ammoniated brine solution, sodium bicarbonate is formed, which is insoluble and which then sinks to the bottom of the tank. When the ammonium chloride is later treated with lime, the ammonia is recovered and can then be put back in the first step of the process. The only requirements are therefore saltwater, carbon dioxide and lime. THAT is the reason the Solvay process might be a credible possibility, that really only seawater and limestone are needed, both of which are available in very large quantities. The carbon dioxide becomes chemically combined in the sodium bicarbonate, which is insoluble and it therefore precipitates (settles) to the bottom. The carbon dioxide is therefore removed from the air.
There are around 70 Solvay Process plants still in operation around the world. Unfortunately, the total amount of carbon dioxide removed from the Earth's atmosphere each year is very tiny when compared to the scale of our problems. All those industrial plants combined only process about 30 million tons of sodium carbonate each year, indicating that only around 15 million tons of carbon dioxide gets removed from the atmosphere each year. For even the Solvay Process to be of a large enough scale, around 2000 times as many Solvay Process plants would be required to process even just the 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide that we are adding to the atmosphere each year. That would require around 140,000 industrial factories each fully operating the Solvay Process.
All of the hundreds of other chemical processes that we know about which can remove carbon dioxide from air, have far less chance of accomplishing the scale that would be needed.
This Year's (2008) World Carbon Dioxide Estimate
The set of three footnotes regarding coal, petroleum and natural gas have calculated that this year (2008), we are creating and releasing 13.2 billion tons; 12.8 billion tons; and 5.9 billion tons; respectively, of carbon dioxide, for a total of around 31.9 billion tons.
The United States generates around 1/4 of this world total each year.
We can describe this quantity in several different ways. By applying the density of carbon dioxide (1.977 gram/liter) we can see that a (metric) ton of carbon dioxide gas takes up about 1010 cubic meters of volume. Multiplying, we see that we have about 32.3 * 1012 cubic meters of carbon dioxide. That 32 trillion cubic meters is the same as about 1,140 trillion cubic feet!
(These presentations sometimes use a "more conservative" value of 400,000,000,000,000 cubic feet, as a value that is an average over the past twenty years or so.)
There are some people who get on TV and claim that they will simply collect the carbon dioxide and "sequester" it inside the Earth, such as in caves. They have clearly never done the math!
If a volume of 1,140 trillion cubic feet were as a sphere (ball), it would be about 40 kilometers or 25 miles in diameter. It would have a volume of about 7,800 cubic miles! All the known caves in the world only have a total volume of a few cubic miles!
This analysis only even refers to what we do in a single year, and we will add just as much again next year, and again the year after!
We would need another 7,800 cubic miles of underground storage space every year, Just to keep from increasing the amount in the atmosphere, and even greater volume if we actually intended to try to reduce the existing problem.
Running Total of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere
These numbers are calculated from the measured fraction of carbon dioxide found in the atmosphere at the South Pole. In 1958, the US started regularly measuring the ppmv (parts per million by volume) of different gases in the atmosphere there, as far as possible from any factories or other nearby human effects. It is well known that the total mass of the Earth's atmosphere is 5.136 * 1015 Metric Tons. Let us consider the year 1960, where the annual average concentration of carbon dioxide at the South Pole was measured at 316.45 ppmv. That is actually 0.00031645 as a decimal. We also need to convert the ppmv measurement into ppmm (parts per million of mass or weight), which means that we need to use the density factor of carbon dioxide to air of 1.529. Therefore, we can calculate that 5.136 * 1015 * 0.00031645 * 1.529 Metric Tons of carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere in 1960. This is 2,485 * 109 Metric Tons. This is the calculated value that we put in our table of the annual amounts. It is also the process that we used for the information displayed in the Right Now active table.
The running total for the Right Now entry does not include the annual effects of plants growing, what is called the Carbon Cycle. Each year, around 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by the plants on Earth, in the process called Photosynthesis. That process combines the energy of sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to create the basic organic material (usually glucose) which is then adapted into all the organic molecules that all plants and animals and humans require for life. Each year, enough plants and animals die, where their components then decompose back into carbon dioxide and water vapor, to return around 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. The net result is that all the plants and animals on Earth briefly affect the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but that they collectively remove and return essentially the same total amount each year.
This is the US government data for the top of Mauna Loa mountain in Hawaii (called the Keeling Curve). It is easy to see the variation that occurs each year, which is primarily due to vegetation growth the Carbon Cycle. The values for the months of an entire year are averaged to get the government's annual values that we have been using. (Note: variations for different locations obviously occur. Plants grow in opposite seasons in the Southern Hemisphere. The range of variation for a location in Kansas would probably be about four times the range seen on Mauna Loa, since far more plants would be much closer to the measuring location, and there is a greater summer/winter difference of plant growth rate in a Temperate climate). (The seasonal variations seen in the Mauna Loa data are generally about 9 ppm. If that applied to the entire world, it would account for a range of around 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide. However, from other sources, it is well established that the Carbon Cycle involves around 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide being removed from and returned to the atmosphere each year. This is a partial reason why locations such as Mauna Loa and the South Pole were selected as data collection points.)
The Right Now running total presented in this presentation does not include these effects of the Carbon Cycle, and instead presents an annual averaged quantity.
The running total presented here also does not include effects of carbon dioxide being absorbed from the atmosphere into the oceans and being released from the oceans back to the atmosphere. Those effects are not yet very well understood, and even though they appear capable of being large effects, the overall effects of dissolving and releasing carbon dioxide from the oceans is here considered to be a consistent action. The calculations in this presentation indicate that the fossil fuels actually burned each year account for around 25 to 30 billion tons of new carbon dioxide created, while the actual measured concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere accounts for around 15 to 20 billion tons which actually becomes added to the atmosphere. The implication is that the difference between these numbers (an enormous amount that no one had been aware of until recently, many billions of tons each year) must be the amount that gets absorbed into the oceans. The running total number here is based on a fairly conservative value of 15.7 billion tons actually added to the atmosphere each year (the average of the South Pole data for the years 2002 through 2006).
It might be noted that there are certain recent years where the increase in the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was less than usual (such as 1992-1993), which might imply that an especially large amount of carbon dioxide had been absorbed in the oceans that year. There were also years where the increase in the atmosphere was more than usual (such as 1972-1973 and 1979-1980) and clearly more than human burning of fossil fuels could account for, which might imply that carbon dioxide had been released from the oceans during that year. Further research is needed in these areas.
IF the examples of 1972-1973 and 1979-1980 actually represents years when billions of tons of carbon dioxide had been released from the oceans, then we have an entirely new area of concern to worry about! We have merrily just been benefiting from the fact that apparently around half of the carbon dioxide that we are releasing due to burning fossil fuels has generally been getting absorbed by the oceans! And no one knows why! Or, until fairly recently, even that it was occurring at all!
We don't want to be surprised if the oceans should suddenly release enormous amounts of carbon dioxide to compound the mess that we are making for ourselves!
Running Total Theoretical Equilibrium Temperature
We know what the Equilibrium Temperature of the Earth had to be before it had an atmosphere, because it then had to radiate away an average of the same amount of energy as it receives from the Sun. Some researchers calculate that Equilibrium Temperature to have been about -20°C or -4°F. The calculations that we did use a slightly different value for the assumed reflectivity (albedo) of the Earth at that time, and we arrive at -23°C or -9°F, a slightly cooler value.
The Earth gradually developed an atmosphere, and many researchers assume that the average temperature has increased in a linear proportion to the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Prior to the last two centuries, the concentration of carbon dioxide had stayed fairly close to 280 ppm, and the average Earth temperature stayed fairly close to 14°C or 58°F.
We noted from the Vostok ice core data graphs discussed in this presentation that the temperature graph follows the carbon dioxide graph moderately well during that 419,000 years as to shape, but also noted that whenever there was a change of around 100 ppm, either up or down, in the upper graph, there was around a corresponding 10°C (or 18°F) change in the Earth's average temperature. This appears to be an excellent confirmation of the mathematical analysis of the Equilibrium Temperature of the Earth.
The two Vostok ice core research graphs show many prominent data points that are in fairly close agreement to the assumption that there is a linear relationship.
This is important in the related Global Warming presentation because we are recently looking at over a 100 ppm increase (so far) in CO2 concentration (from around 280 to 390 ppm). The data from these Vostok graphs seems to indicate that we should therefore expect at least a 10°C or 18°F rise, which is in fairly good agreement with the 25°F (14°C) rise calculated in the Global Warming presentation's logic. note 35 We have included a column in the table which shows the calculated Equilibrium Temperature which should exist for each year indicated. If the resulting Equilibrium average Earth temperature is now therefore 76°F (24°C) or 83°F (28°C), either will very likely be terminal to the Earth's plant life.
That is important because many botanists and agronomists have said that if the Earth's Average Temperature ever gets up to around 80°F (27°C), then all plants will die. There are many different opinions, but many of those experts say that an increase of even 10°C (or 18°F) in the Earth's average temperature will end all plant life on Earth. Not "immediately" but certainly within a few generations of us at most.
An Apparent Critical Year
We included a line for the year 1997, because that year has a calculated Equilibrium Temperature of around 25°C or 77°F. The implication is that if humanity had stopped all usage of all fossil fuels on Jan 1, 1997, then eventually the Earth would rise to an average Equilibrium Temperature where Botanists think that the Earth's plants would be right on the borderline of either living or drying up and dying. Therefore, a case seems possible to be made that around January 1997 may have been the last date that we could have altered our behavior such that humanity might have been able to continue on Earth.
The current average Earth Temperature is not anywhere close to the Theoretical calculated Average Temperature (yet). Actually, only a rather minimal temperature increase has been noted so far. Some people assume that means that there is no problem. They are nearly certainly extremely wrong about that! The linked presentation describes a situation and provides the calculations regarding a lag time of about 140 years in the Earth's Average Temperature catching up to changes in the carbon dioxide concentration. note 35 The lag time appears to be due to the great mass and therefore thermal inertia of the Earth and the poor thermal conductivity of most of the rocks of the Earth's Crust.
Some spokespeople talk about a "tipping point" regarding causing Global Warming of such a level that humanity will not endure. Different spokespeople talk about "we may have ten years before a tipping point" or "we may have fifty years before a tipping point". None of them appear to have any basis for the time scale they mention, it being pretty much an educated guess. This presentation and the linked one do provide a scientific and mathematical basis for the reasoning and the values presented. There seems to be extremely strong reason to believe that January 1997 WAS the "tipping point" regarding the survival of humanity on Earth.
The hope is that mankind would see cause to apply ferocious dedication to try to correct these matters immediately, and then also find some way to somewhat reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in coming decades, to give humanity a small chance at survival. Human nature seems to suggest that this will not be done, and that we are (already) doomed.
It seems unlikely that the linear relationship would still hold in 2108, so the Earth's Average Temperature may not get up to 127°F. But that really will not matter, since if all plants will die when the Earth's Average Temperature passes 80°F (27°C), humans and animals would then all die of starvation and not much else will matter.
The total incoming energy (power) from the Sun (called Insolation) which approaches the Earth is around 172.33 PW (peta-watts or 1015 watts). This amount has several small variations, such as that due to the varying distance of the Earth to the Sun (the Eccentricity of the Earth's orbit), some slight short-term variations in the actual output of the Sun, and some other small effects. Almost 1/3 of this incoming energy is immediately reflected back out to deep space (58.59 PW), which leaves the remaining 113.74 PW of incoming power to actually interact with the Earth and its atmosphere, that is, actually get into the Earth's environmental system. These last two numbers are actually a mathematical Integration of the effects at all wavelengths of light, as the reflectivity and transmittance and absorptance is different for the different component wavelengths of the incoming sunlight. note 22
We can now use this last number (113.74 PW) to estimate the long-term effects of either a one-layer or multiple-layer model of the atmosphere.
This acts to heat up the atmosphere to a higher temperature, and IT now radiates infrared energy away to dispose of it. Half of that emitted radiation is directed upward and out toward deep space, and the other half is directed downward back toward Earth. In assuming a one-layer Model, we are assuming that the upward directed radiation then freely escapes to space, never to be involved again with the Earth or its atmosphere.
The heated atmosphere would therefore also radiate another 56.87 PW of (infrared, heat) energy back down toward the Earth. (that is the first iteration). Given sufficient time to attain equilibrium, the Earth's surface would rise to a temperature to now radiate away (113.74 + 56.87) 170.61 PW. But now the atmosphere would absorb all this 170.61 energy. So now it would radiate half of that, 85.31 PW outward toward space and also half downward to the Earth. Notice that we now have 113.74 + 85.31 or 199.05 PW getting to the Earth, which gets it up to an even higher temperature. (this is the second iteration, this time adding another 28.44 PW). A third iteration would add yet another 14.22 PW. And then another 7.11 PW and then 3.56 PW, and 1.78 PW, etc.
A simplistic view of this is that energy gets "bounced back and forth" between the single-layer atmosphere and the Earth. Each time, both the atmosphere and the surface of the Earth has a higher Equilibrium temperature. The atmosphere is quickly able to rise to that new Equilibrium temperature, but the Earth takes longer to do so, mostly due to its great mass and thermal inertia.
It is a simple Algebraic Summation to calculate the total of this infinite number of iterations. In this limiting case of the atmosphere absorbing 100% of outgoing radiation, the Algebraic total would turn out to be 227.48 PW of total outgoing radiation from the surface of the Earth. (exactly twice the initial incoming Solar radiation.) This means that the surface of the Earth has necessarily risen in temperature to be able to radiate away this exact amount of outgoing infrared radiation.
With a one-layer model for the atmosphere, this is the limiting case.. We can then use the Stefan-Boltzmann equation to determine the maximum possible temperature for the Earth's surface. It is actually a proportion of temperature based on the original Equilibrium temperature of the Earth (which we had calculated as 250.5°K or -8.7°F or -22.6°C); over that early Earth's equilibrium temperature which would result in a maximum Earth Average temperature of about 76.6°F or 24.8°C. (Some other sources assume that the initial Earth Equilibrium temperature was a little higher at around 253°K or -4°F or -20°C. If this value is used, then the maximum Earth Average temperature would also be a little higher at about 82.2°F or 27.9°C) (still for the single-layer Model of the atmosphere.)
This implies that the (average) temperature of the Earth's surface has an asymptote at 76.6°F (24.8°C), as long as our one-layer-atmosphere assumption is true. The linear relationship between carbon dioxide concentration and Earth temperature was true for low levels of carbon dioxide, but that relationship curves away from the linear relationship into one where additional amounts of carbon dioxide would not cause any increases at all in the Earth's temperature! note 71
Notice that this limiting case is somewhat self-perpetuating, in that some of the very same heat energy can be radiated back and forth many times between the Earth's surface and the warmed gases of the atmosphere, due to the atmosphere containing either or both of water vapor and carbon dioxide. Again, if you pile on a thicker or better blanket over your body, you are actually not creating any extra heat energy, but you have the sensation you are much warmer, because your own body heat is able to benefit you more than once!
Please note that we still have Equilibrium in this situation. The Sun is sending in 113.74 PW and 113.74 PW more infrared radiation would be coming down from the heated atmosphere, exactly providing the 227.48 PW that the 76.5°F (24.8°C) surface radiates upward. The Sun is sending in the 113.74 PW of power, and the total of what the heated atmosphere radiates off to space is also 113.74, again exactly balancing.
This single-layer Model of the atmosphere therefore has an asymptote of a limiting high temperature, which happens to be very close to the 80°F (27°C) highest average Earth temperature that Botanists seem to believe plants can reasonably survive at. Therefore, a single-layer Model seems to suggest that there would be some amount of food supply from plants, no matter how much carbon dioxide is dumped into the atmosphere.
In many ways, this Model is nearly exactly the same as the single-layer Model, with the exception of what happens to the upward bound radiation, which the single-layer Model assumes is directly able to escape to deep space. The Multiple-Layer Model assumes that there is a second (essentially identical) layer of atmosphere above the one which we have been discussing. This has the effect of greatly changing many things.
That second layer of atmosphere receives the radiation coming up from the first layer below it, and it now absorbs all of it (in the limiting case we have been discussing). This second layer then heats up and re-radiates the energy, again half upward and outward but ALSO now downward and Earthward. This additional amount of energy sent toward the first layer is at least the 56.87 PW we had discussed above, but it would generally be greater than that due to the same iterations discussed above. In fact, the limiting case (after energy has "bounced between the first and second layers an infinite number of times") is a total of 113.74 PW.
In other words, the first layer is therefore being heated (1) by radiation upward from the Earth [with the iterative total of 227.48 PW we calculated above for the one-layer Model]; and now also (2) by radiation download from the second layer of the atmosphere [another iterative total of 113.74 PW]. The first layer therefore gets heated to a significantly higher temperature than if it were just a single-layer atmosphere. This atmospheric temperature can easily be calculated, but we will skip that here. In any event, we now have the first layer of the atmosphere receiving a total of 341.22 PW of power, and therefore heating up, and then re-radiating half of that energy upward (toward the second layer) and the other half downward toward the Earth, which is now half of 341.22 or 170.61 PW. note 71
Due to just the effect of this second layer of the Model atmosphere, we now see that the Earth receives the 113.74 PW directly from the Sun, and also the 170.61 PW from the first layer of the atmosphere, for an incoming total power rate of 284.35 PW. The Stefan-Boltzman relationship can be used to quickly see that this second layer of atmosphere would increase the maximum Average Earth temperature up to about 107.4°F or 41.9°C.
We can see that just the addition of one additional layer of the atmospheric Model increased the maximum average Earth temperature from around 76.6°F to around 107.4°F. (Such a temperature would absolutely eliminate any plants surviving, and therefore there would be no food whatever for any animals or humans.)
But a multiple-layer Model necessarily contains a large number of separate layer entities. note 71
Each additional layer in a multiple-layer Model has similar effects, although the mathematics quickly becomes pretty involved. In fact, since all these effects interact with each other, it is necessary to use mathematical Integration rather than simple iterations to get accurate results. People used to talk about a "runaway greenhouse effect" which was based on this multiple-layer Model, where the ultimate maximum Average Earth temperature could become astoundingly hot! Many hundred degrees becomes very likely, if and when enough carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere so that it acted like a multiple-layer Model.
If this sounds impossible, it is not. Indeed, the single example we have to examine, the atmosphere of the planet Venus, clearly demonstrates this multiple-layer Model. Around 1960, many researchers had calculated that the surface temperature of Venus should be around -41°F or -42°C, because they knew that around 76% of incoming sunlight was reflected off of the bright white clouds. So they were all totally surprised when they found that every lander spacecraft immediately melted and was destroyed by excessive heat! It took many attempts before it was learned that the average surface temperature of Venus was not -41°F, but it was +860°F (460°C)! We now know that is entirely due to the multiple-layer effects of Venus' atmosphere. Yes, only a small amount of incoming sunlight can get through to the surface, but once it gets there, the multiple-layer atmosphere is extremely effective at trapping it there. The small amount of incoming sunlight kept adding to the ever increasing trapped amount of heat, which now has resulted in a surface where lead metal would be liquid rather than solid there! note 71
So, the only example we actually have available to examine has shown itself to be a multiple-layer Model atmosphere. IF that is true of Earth, the maximum possible Average Earth surface temperature might also be able to get up to near the melting point of lead.
The frightening part is that no one knows whether we might have a single-layer or a multiple-layer atmosphere surrounding the Earth. In the one case, humanity seems to have a remote chance of survival beyond a hundred years or so, while in the other case, the possibilities are incredibly dark.
So far, scientists can only guess at which might be true! We know that if there is an extreme amount of carbon dioxide, it certainly would become a multiple-layer atmosphere. But currently, we can only hope that with a moderate amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, that it might behave close to like a single-layer Model.
The analysis presented here suggests that if the single-layer atmosphere exists around the Earth, then there is a temperature asymptote at around 77°F (25°C), and humanity may have a chance of survival. If the atmosphere behaves as a multiple-layer phenomenon, then the relationship between carbon dioxide concentration and Earth Equilibrium temperature is likely to be extremely close to being linear. The difference between these two is spectacular, but no one has any way of knowing which might actually be true.
The discussions above all are about "limiting cases", meaning the worst and best possible situations. Some US government data indicates that presently around 80 PW of radiation is now being lost to deep space by our atmosphere, another 17 PW of radiation is lost to deep space from clouds (the water droplets in them) and the remaining 17 PW being lost to deep space directly from the surface of the Earth (which accounts for the total outgoing infrared radiation of the 113.74 PW). This data seems to indicate that we are well on our way of getting to the point where the limiting cases would apply! We are not yet at 100% absorption of the Earth's outgoing radiation, but we are already at around 85.4% ( (113.74 - 17) / 113.74 ). This had slowly increased naturally over four billion years, but is now rising extremely quickly due to our burning of fossil fuels. That government data indicates than less than 15% of the Earth's outgoing infrared radiation now makes it out through the atmosphere to deep space, and that percentage will drop as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continues to increase. It may not be long before it drops to near zero and we have one or the other of these two limiting-case scenarios in effect.
Any good quality scientific research paper is extremely thorough, making sure to carefully examine every tiny detail of every related subject. This generally causes true scientific papers to be extremely long and usually rather complex.
An attempt has been made regarding this subject to present it in an unusual way. As much as possible of the advanced science aspects have been moved to a number of Footnotes. The hope is that the resulting presentation might be understandable and tolerable to the public, but that the specifics that careful science insists on are still addressed for those who need or want to know deeper information. The Footnotes are also somewhat abbreviated in not including many things that should normally be familiar to those in the related Fields.
At bi-weekly intervals, air samples are collected in sets of three 5-liter evacuated glass flasks, at the South Pole (Lat. 89°59'S. Long. 24°48'W.). They are analyzed for CO2 at SIO (Scripps) using a nondispersive infrared gas analyzer with a water vapor freeze trap. Calibration gases are regularly tested as well to confirm accuracy. The three sample flasks must agree within 0.40 ppmv to be considered acceptable data. Scripps has more thorough description of their procedures and equipment.
The readings are averaged to obtain monthly and annual average values. Our running display uses the annual averaged figures from this South Pole data, interpolated for each 1/10 second.
If the specific interpolated value at the South Pole for that instant were 380.0 ppmv, this means that the atmosphere was then 0.000380 carbon dioxide (by volume). It is accurately known that the total Earth's atmosphere is 5.136 * 1015 metric tonnes. It is also necessary to apply a density factor of 1.529 (of carbon dioxide to the average atmospheric mixture of gases) to convert the ppm (volume) value to ppm (mass or weight).
Therefore, it is simply necessary to multiply these three numbers 5.136 * 1015 * 0.000380 * 1.529 to get 2984.12 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in the entire Earth's atmosphere at that instant. This is the value that is continuously displayed here. The value has nothing to do with actual usage or consumption figures of fossil fuels, which actually generally give larger numbers for the annual increases.
Regarding the total mass of the earth's atmosphere, you can calculate that number, too! You already know that atmospheric pressure (at sea level) is 14.7 pounds per square inch (or 10332 kilograms per square meter). This pressure is actually due to exactly that amount of weight of atmosphere stacked above that square inch or square meter up to the very top of the atmosphere. So all we have to do is multiply that (metric) number by the total area of the surface of the earth, which is 5.10 * 1014 square meters. So you can calculate that the total mass of the Earth's atmosphere is 5.269 * 1018 kg or 5.269 * 1015 metric tons. For purists, the actual total mass is slightly less because continents and mountains take up some volume where air might otherwise be!
Atmospheric CO2 concentrations (ppmv) derived from flask and in situ air samples collected at the South Pole
Source: C.D. Keeling, T.P. Whorf, and the Carbon Dioxide Research Group
Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO)
University of California, La Jolla, California USA 92093-0444
May 2005, August 2007
Month Jan Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec. Ann. Avg. 1957 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 313.37 -99.99 -99.99 313.87 -99.99 -99.99 314.48 -99.99 -99.99 1958 -99.99 -99.99 314.29 -99.99 -99.99 314.52 -99.99 -99.99 315.31 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 314.78 1959 315.09 315.14 315.09 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 315.96 316.22 -99.99 316.32 -99.99 -99.99 315.64 1960 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 316.38 316.69 316.75 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 316.45 1961 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 316.79 316.86 316.94 317.35 317.68 317.74 317.87 317.67 -99.99 317.08 1962 317.45 317.26 317.06 317.11 317.18 317.25 317.27 317.64 318.07 -99.99 -99.99 318.63 (317.62) 317.62 1963 318.13 317.87 317.47 317.90 318.26 318.22 318.26 318.64 318.56 319.02 -99.99 -99.99 (318.32) 318.35 1964 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 318.68 1965 -99.99 318.68 318.56 318.68 318.89 -99.99 319.38 319.67 -99.99 -99.99 320.17 320.27 -99.99 319.42 1966 320.34 319.99 320.05 320.31 320.44 320.46 -99.99 321.08 321.35 321.46 321.56 321.07 (320.74) 320.72 1967 -99.99 321.01 -99.99 320.86 321.00 320.96 321.06 321.83 322.08 321.80 321.82 321.77 (321.33) 321.32 1968 321.53 -99.99 -99.99 321.61 321.47 321.44 321.50 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 -99.99 322.65 -99.99 321.91 1969 322.37 -99.99 322.27 322.30 322.58 322.79 323.24 323.60 324.13 323.95 323.97 -99.99 (323.11) 323.12 1970 323.68 323.53 323.43 323.67 323.78 324.18 324.46 324.72 325.19 325.20 325.23 -99.99 (324.34) 324.32 1971 324.80 324.61 324.33 324.47 324.67 324.91 325.15 -99.99 325.77 -99.99 325.74 -99.99 -99.99 325.12 1972 -99.99 -99.99 325.05 325.17 325.31 325.82 326.13 326.85 326.54 326.79 326.94 326.82 (326.00) 326.00 1973 326.74 326.34 326.36 326.82 327.11 327.43 327.73 328.40 328.69 328.63 328.60 328.58 327.62 327.62 1974 328.30 328.08 328.09 327.90 328.01 327.88 328.46 328.68 328.94 329.04 329.12 328.99 328.46 328.49 1975 328.89 328.90 328.85 328.94 328.93 329.07 329.35 329.83 330.22 330.56 330.46 330.27 329.52 329.50 1976 330.30 330.01 329.91 329.63 329.93 329.98 330.46 331.01 331.39 331.71 331.74 331.43 330.62 330.60 1977 331.26 331.00 330.85 331.32 331.40 331.62 332.05 332.45 332.87 333.10 333.31 333.18 332.03 332.03 1978 332.83 332.71 332.83 332.98 -99.99 333.37 333.82 334.28 334.74 334.82 334.58 334.30 (333.70) 333.69 1979 334.01 334.03 333.82 334.17 334.34 334.54 335.15 335.71 335.88 336.00 336.37 336.04 335.01 335.03 1980 336.06 335.75 -99.99 336.10 336.21 336.90 337.45 337.54 337.87 337.90 337.97 338.04 (336.98) 336.98 1981 337.76 337.48 337.43 337.52 337.67 338.15 338.41 338.76 338.81 339.15 338.86 338.91 338.24 338.26 1982 -99.99 338.65 338.38 338.70 338.99 339.18 339.33 340.11 340.30 340.33 340.03 339.96 (339.39) 339.39 1983 339.86 339.84 339.85 340.31 340.63 341.00 341.41 341.88 342.33 342.29 342.54 342.35 341.19 341.17 1984 342.05 -99.99 341.71 341.84 341.87 342.01 342.80 343.20 343.46 343.50 343.32 343.15 (342.56) 342.58 1985 343.01 342.83 342.73 342.76 343.12 343.45 343.93 344.52 344.86 344.95 344.79 344.64 343.80 343.82 1986 344.63 344.57 344.50 344.62 344.69 345.02 345.54 345.93 346.18 346.16 346.17 346.04 345.34 345.32 1987 345.89 345.79 345.75 346.11 346.20 346.61 347.19 347.63 348.07 348.10 348.19 348.31 346.99 346.99 1988 348.29 348.06 347.87 348.20 348.33 348.58 349.07 349.58 349.75 349.89 349.85 349.83 348.94 348.95 1989 349.81 349.76 349.66 349.73 349.93 350.18 350.59 351.12 351.37 351.30 351.33 350.99 350.48 350.44 1990 350.76 350.40 350.64 350.90 351.36 351.59 352.05 352.55 352.75 352.57 352.83 352.63 351.75 351.77 1991 -99.99 352.34 352.28 352.44 352.54 352.96 353.39 353.67 354.09 353.89 353.95 353.77 (353.15) 353.12 1992 353.56 353.15 353.03 353.23 353.74 354.00 354.61 354.94 355.26 355.37 355.11 354.88 354.24 354.24 1993 354.72 354.49 354.22 354.42 354.50 354.84 355.20 355.70 356.04 356.05 356.02 355.69 355.16 355.16 1994 355.49 355.49 355.51 355.63 355.69 355.99 356.47 357.11 357.61 357.53 357.71 357.52 356.48 356.48 1995 357.45 357.36 357.36 357.63 357.81 357.95 358.34 358.75 359.15 359.29 359.43 359.47 358.33 358.35 1996 359.36 359.30 359.25 359.36 359.40 359.71 360.15 360.52 360.71 360.70 360.74 360.70 359.99 359.99 1997 360.56 360.46 360.32 360.48 360.58 360.90 361.24 361.52 361.95 362.01 362.11 362.15 361.19 361.20 1998 362.10 362.30 362.41 362.69 363.00 363.54 364.04 364.56 364.99 365.02 365.10 364.98 363.73 363.70 1999 364.96 364.75 364.81 364.99 365.05 -99.99 365.66 365.92 366.37 366.51 366.74 366.80 (365.66) 365.65 2000 366.46 366.49 366.76 366.45 366.58 366.78 367.10 367.53 367.65 367.75 367.88 367.83 367.10 367.05 2001 367.81 367.10 367.04 367.36 367.60 367.92 368.29 368.83 369.44 369.57 369.46 369.25 368.31 368.34 2002 369.31 369.50 369.61 369.68 369.99 370.38 370.87 371.46 371.69 371.83 371.81 371.61 370.64 370.66 2003 371.93 371.78 371.71 371.99 372.32 372.57 372.96 373.40 373.90 373.82 373.65 373.61 372.80 372.80 2004 373.59 373.41 373.85 373.88 374.06 374.46 374.85 375.35 375.52 375.60 375.51 375.25 374.61 374.61 2005 375.18 374.98 375.16 375.50 375.88 376.39 376.87 377.29 377.59 377.72 377.79 377.82 376.51 376.51 2006 377.76 377.58 377.65 377.91 378.16 378.43 378.82 379.24 379.48 379.60 379.63 379.58 378.65 378.65 2007 379.55 379.47 379.47 379.73 380.12 380.50 380.88 381.36 381.74 381.86 381.88 381.89 380.70 380.70 2008 381.77 381.71 381.80 381.92 382.04 382.33 382.87 383.32 383.56 383.70 383.66 383.59 382.69 382.69
Atmospheric CO2 concentrations (ppmv) derived from flask and in situ air samples collected at the Mount Mauna Loa, Hawaii
Source: C.D. Keeling, T.P. Whorf, and the Carbon Dioxide Research Group
Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO)
University of California, La Jolla, California USA 92093-0444
(this Mauna Loa data is generally slightly higher than that at the South Pole. We have not been able to obtain extremely recent data from the South Pole yet.)
Month Jan Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec. Ann. Avg. 2006 381.10 381.35 381.15 381.96 381.86 381.67 381.64 382.04 382.05 382.40 382.27 382.65 381.85 2007 382.62 382.94 382.92 383.68 383.45 383.67 383.94 383.67 384.04 384.43 384.47 384.65 383.71 2008 385.15 384.90 384.45 384.50 385.40 385.55 385.86 385.88 386.30 386.33 386.20 386.36 385.58 2009 386.64 386.60 387.25 386.77 387.07 387.17 387.28 387.65 388.00 387.18 2012 393.60 393.82 2013 396.80 395.11 396.48 2014 398.03 397.27 398.55 2015 400.16 401.31 2016 October 25 exceeded 400.0 402.2
Monthly values are expressed in parts per million (ppm) and reported in the 2003A SIO manometric mole fraction scale. The monthly values have been adjusted to the 15th of each month. Missing values are denoted by -99.99. The "annual" average is the arithmetic mean of the twelve monthly values. In years with one or two missing monthly values, annual values were calculated by substituting a fit value (4-harmonics with gain factor and spline) for that month and then averaging the twelve monthly values.
Calibration details are discussed by Francey et al. (2003). Monthly values are calculated as the mean of the daily values from a smooth curve fit to the data using curve-fitting routines described by Thoning et al., 1989, (J. Geophys. Res. 94, 8549-8565).
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