Monday, 30 May 2011

More Green House Gases: What Are We Going to Do about It?

Lots of stuff this morning about the increase in carbon emissions in the last year. The International Energy Agency has just reported that Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history.

"After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 Gigatonnes (Gt), a 5% jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt, " the agency says in a press release announcing the publication of its report.

"In addition, the IEA has estimated that 80% of projected emissions from the power sector in 2020 are already locked in, as they will come from power plants that are currently in place or under construction today."

But how to reconcile our energy needs with the dangers of energy production is a huge question? Germany has just announced it will decommission its nuclear power plants by 2022, and rely on renewable sources of energy. Currently about a quarter of the country's power needs come from nuclear plants (which Forbes notes is about the same as in the US: in Canada the figure is about 19 per cent) and 17 pe cent comes from renewable sources. Fossil fuels will continue to used to produce power, but Chancellor Angela Merkel says that the new strategy will include "a new architecture," necessitating huge efforts in boosting renewable energies, efficiency gains and overhauling the electricity grid.

Can anything like this happen in North America? The economic factors are daunting, although The Globe and Mail has an interesting story in the business section today about Bullfrog Power . The company based in the Toronto region sells electricity to companies after buying it from projects that produce power from renewable resources.

But as I keep saying, we've also got to rethink how we live in cities if we really want to make a difference in our energy consumption.


Home Inspector Training said...

Yes, of course the climate has changed in the past and each change has had specific causes. What is evident now, is the the current period of warming is being caused by human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and that it will continue to get worse if we carry on the way we are. Unfortunately, some people will always deny warning signs, which is why human history is full of the misery of war, famine and collapsed civilizations.

Home Inspector Expert said...

From all that I have read, a 2 degree C rise would make most of the planet too hot to support agriculture, and it was chosen several years ago, before the full impacts were understood, as a reasonable attainable level. IIRC, 2 degrees C correlates to 450 ppm.
Here are some of the problems:
We (planet) are already at or have just passed the carrying capacity based on arable land and fossil fuels. This means disruptions in the weather or in fuel/fertilizer will send significant populations into famine. With last year’s wheat harvest destructions in Australia and Russia, and this year’s disaster, which is still unfolding, in the American Midwest, more people will face food insecurity this year.
Dmitry Orlov characterized excess deaths (mortality above the average rates for a cohort): Unless you work in a morgue, you don’t see it as it happens, but one year you go to a class reunion and you realize many of your classmates are gone.
So, we might not even see the excess deaths until several years after the fact just as we could not see peak oil when it occurred in 2005, but only the effect on the economy/housing market/debt system in 2008.
All this from just one half a degree (F) warming.
There is the problem of cascading effects. When one system breaks, the ones dependent on it may also break. We do not know how many instances of death via starvation this will cause.
At some point, the non-linear effects will kick in. Take sea level rise. When the wet process of glacier disintegration accelerates, then this previously unstipulated cause of sea level rise (because scientists do not know how to quantify it, they do not include it in their calculations) becomes a major factor. Hundreds millions more displaced onto non-arable land.
It just gets worsened and worsened.
So, all the dismal projections are based on linear effects, but the larger non-linear effects are not figured in because we do not know how to do so.

Mary Soderstrom said...

Very interesting comments. Not very cheerful, but forewarned should mean fore-armed. Got to spread the word, that we're not talking about "The Rapture" kind of events, but real things.