The Most Important Number in Human History

Carbon overload Carbon in atmosphere and amount in fossil fuel reserves
Carbon overload Carbon in atmosphere and amount in fossil fuel reserves

That number was 52 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2012

Only when this number declines will we know we’re making the shift to climate protection

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Dec 17 2012 (IPS) 

The most important number in history is now the annual measure of carbon emissions. That number reveals humanity’s steady billion-tonne by billion-tonne march to the edge of the carbon cliff, beyond which scientists warn lies a fateful fall to catastrophic climate change.

With the global total of climate-disrupting emissions likely to come in at around 52 gigatonnes (billion metric tonnes) this year, we’re already at the edge, according to new research.

To have a good chance of staying below two degrees C of warming, global emissions should be between 41 and 47 gigatonnes (Gt) by 2020, said Joeri Rogelj, a climate scientist at Switzerland’s Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich.

Only when we see the annual global emissions total decline will we know we’re making the shift to climate protection,” Rogelj told IPS.

Making the shift to a future climate with less than two degrees C of warming is doable and not that expensive if total emissions peak in the next few years and fall into the 41-47 Gt “sweet spot” by 2020, Rogelj and colleagues show in their detailed analysis published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study is the first to comprehensively quantify the costs and risks of emissions surpassing critical thresholds by 2020. Continue reading

Carbon Capture Fraud: The $1.6 billion (and counting) Taxpayer Gift to Coal and Oil Industry

Could carbon capture and sequestration save the world?

Canadian taxpayers are putting $1.6 billion into the experiment

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

by Stephen Leahy

Published in Nov/Dec’09 issue of Watershed Sentinel

Like a reckless gambler, the federal government’s plan to deal with our emissions of climate-altering carbon dioxide is to put most of our money on an unproven, risky and expensive long shot called “carbon capture and sequestration,” CCS for short. In a pair of October announcements, the Alberta and federal governments committed $1.6 billion to use this untested technology to reduce carbon emissions from an Alberta coal plant and a Shell Oil tar sands upgrader. Billions more are promised.

Canada puts 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. That has to stop. This generation, you and me, must determine what methods and technologies offer permanent CO2 reduction at the scale we need, and do so quickly, safely and at the lowest cost. And we must act on that knowledge as if the future of children’s lives depend it because we are shaping the world they will inherit.

We cannot rely on political and business leaders to make these decisions on their own, as will become evident.

What other ways could we reduce our CO2 emissions with $1.6 billion of public money – $200 per Canadian family of four?

Replace 3.2 million older inefficient refrigerators with high-efficiency ones, thus reducing carbon emissions by 2-3 million tonnes annually. Continue reading

GW Desperation Drives Slightly Mad Ideas

coral-sea-oz.jpg

Climate Change: Time For Some Slightly Mad Ideas?
By Stephen Leahy

Sep 28 (IPS) – Lack of governmental action on climate change is forcing scientists to consider radical climate geo-engineering schemes such as giant vertical pipes in the ocean and growing vast blooms of plankton to try and prevent the worst from happening.

Companies backing some of these schemes hope to profit from the rising public clamour for action and politicians desperate to avoid serious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

“I wasn’t in favour of geo-engineering before, but we haven’t done well in reducing emissions,” said Chris Rapley, director of the Science Museum in London and former head of the British Antarctic Survey.

In fact, the global community continues on the “business as usual” path in terms of emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), thus increasing the chances of catastrophic climate change, Rapley, a climate change expert, told IPS.

“Just look at how incredibly quick the Arctic sea ice is melting,” he said. Continue reading