Tag Archives: co2 emission

China didn’t emit as much CO2 as we think it did, Harvard study concludes

China – the world’s most populous country and the world’s top polluter, carrying a lot of responsibility for global CO2 emissions. China gets a lot of well deserved flak for its unsustainable ways, but according to a new study, at least some of the flak is undeserved. China’s emissions have been overestimated by 14 percent, according to a study published in Nature.

Image via IB Times.

The research shows that from 2000 to 2013 China produced 2.9 gigatonnes less carbon than previous estimates of its total emissions – 14% less than previously calculated. However, China’s energy consumption grew 10% faster than according to its national statistics. The researchers, led by Dabo Guan, of University of East Anglia’s (UAE) School of International Development used independent data to reevaluate China’s fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emission from 1950 to 2013. The main reason for this discrepancy, they say, is that China burns lower quality coal, which emits less CO2.

“While China is the largest coal consumer in the world, it burns much lower-quality coal, such as brown coal, which has a lower heat value and carbon content compared to the coal burned in the U.S. and Europe,” said Guan.

[Also Read: Documentary on China’s pollution takes the country by storm]

This is both good news and bad. It’s obviously good news if China emitted less than we previously believed, but it means that China’s recent pledge to peak its emissions by 2030 will be much harder to achieve. China’s energy needs grow more and more with each year, and that trend is not likely to curve out any time soon. Frank Jotzo, director of the Australian National University Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, believes that this is a key indication that we need to shift our energy consumption away from coal. This applies especially for China, but many other countries should do this as well.

“For global climate change mitigation to succeed, a shift from coal to other energy sources in China is essential.” he said. “China is making good progress towards that goal.”

Indeed, China has taken some significant steps towards reducing its contribution to climate change. Their commitment has been backed up by actions, and for the first time, their economic growth has been decoupled from CO2 emissions. But these are just the first steps in what seems to be a marathon. China’s pollution reached record levels in 2013, and only 8 Chinese cities meet air quality requirements.

It’s a long way to go, and China’s success or failure to transition to a greener economy will be pivotal to our planet’s evolution. Hopefully, they’ll get it right.

Journal Reference: Zhu Liu et al. Reduced Carbon Emission estimates from fossil fuel combustion and cement production in China. doi:10.1038/nature14777

State politics affect greenhouse gas emissions

It seems rather obvious to me, but there was a lot of debate regarding how a country’s politics affect its emissions – for better or for worse. A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that environmental policies in the US have had a significant impact on emissions from 1990 to present days.

Image via Environment Magazine.

Despite growing resistance, environmentalists and “green” politicians should not give up on their efforts – because they are making a difference. Co-Author, Kenneth Frank, a sociologist said that in all states where environmental policies were implemented, emissions have been reduced.

“The movement is having an effect — it’s just happening on a state-by-state basis,” he said.

His colleague, sociologist Thomas Dietz, the lead author of the study, has been studying what affects CO2 emissions, and has uncovered the two main factors behind this: a country’s population and its affluence. Generally, the more people a country has, the more they emit, and the same goes for affluence, the abundance of money and material goods.

“We’ve used new methods developed over the years and new innovations Ken has developed to add in the politics – and find that politics and environmentalism can mediate some environmental impact,” Dietz said. “Environmentalism seems to influence policies and how well policies that are in place are actually implemented, and it also influences individual behavior and the choices people make.”

Two notable examples were New York and Vermont, where strong eco-policies have been implemented, and the air is much cleaner than two decades ago. Comparing the two states with Texas and and Wyoming, the differences are clear: the latter are much more reluctant to implement this type of policies, and the results are evident.

Rachael Shwom, an environmental sociologist at Rutgers University who was not involved in the study praised the study as the first to quantify the effects that environmental policies have on a state-by-state level.

“Lots of people who study culture and politics think they are important [drivers of emissions levels], but it hasn’t been demonstrated with data in the past,” she said. “That they found the strength of the environmental movement mattered … is a really important finding.”

All in all, there are reasons to be optimistic – CO2 emissions are generally on the rise in the US, but a 1 percent increase in environmentalism tends to curb the carbon emissions by more than enough to compensate that growth.

“Efforts to mitigate emissions take a variety of forms at the state and local level, and may have a substantial impact, even in the absence of a unified national policy,” the study reported. “If we increase environmentalism at about the same scale as economic growth, we can offset the impact,” Thomas Dietz said.


Exxon CEO: ‘What Good Is It To Save The Planet If Humanity Suffers?’

“Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die” – seems to be the motto at big oil companies. At Wednesday’s meeting for ExxonMobil shareholders in Dallas, CEO Rex Tillerson told participants that the economy is currently relying on oil, and that will not change anytime soon. He concluded that cutting down on carbon emissions would do no good.

“What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?”

exxon mobil

Well, I think I have a good answer: how about the survival of the human species as we know it – avoiding a change of climate which will lead to the death of millions? It’s pretty weird that Tillerson, who is an Eagle Scout (the highest attainable rank in the boy scouts), missed all the rampant ecological destruction that caused the loss of thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and displaced millions of people. Maybe the drought that threatens to cause a global water shortage in just a few decades – and that is if carbon emissions remain the same, and not increase (which they are, at the moment).

Exxon does not see carbon emissions falling until 2040. If this is the case, we’re in for heat waves, drought, water shortage, food insecurity, storms, sea level rises, and so much more! As a matter of fact, they’re so adamant on not seeing carbon emissions drop that they’re funding research to deny climate change. No, really! 9 out of 10 climate denial studies are funded by Exxon Mobil.

A Carbon Disclosure Project Report noted that:

“ExxonMobil noted that the company’s ‘operations around the world include remote and offshore areas that present challenges from existing climate extremes and storms. These severe weather events may disrupt supplies or interrupt the operations of ExxonMobil facilities.’ ”

So, as Think Progress puts it, what mister Tillerson probably wanted to say is

“What good is it to save humanity if profits suffer?”

Why is Exxon doing this? Because, of course, it’s a win-win situation. For now, they get to sell all the oil and hydrocarbon products, and as the resource go scarcer and scarcer, they get to sell more unconventional resources (ahem, shale gas); and to add even more to the pie, as climate conditions get more dramatic, they will have other engineering solutions to sell.

”As a species that’s why we’re all still here: we have spent our entire existence adapting. So we will adapt to this. It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions.”

For the seventh time, about three quarters of Exxon shareholders voted down a resolution that would require the company to set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from using Exxon products. Oh, they also voted down a resolution that would ban discrimination against homosexuals.

The Inevitable 2014 Headline: ‘Global CO2 Level Reaches 400 PPM For First Time In Human Existence.’

The inevitable 2012 title was ‘Human population reaches 7 billion‘, surpassing anything anyone could have imagined 100 years ago. Now, we’re approaching a very worrying milestone – CO2 levels in the air will reach 400 ppm (parts per million), for the first time in human existence.

co2 1

CO2 levels have risen at a quick, steady pace for several decades, as the chart above clearly shows. Now, just to get this out of the way, any man in his right mind will tell you this is man made, there’s no argument there. There is a direct connection between global CO2 levels and human activity, as was clearly observed by studies conducted on ice cores.

co2 2

But hey, guess what. Geologists and paleoclimatologists don’t even look at thousands of years – that doesn’t even make any sense for us. Here, take a look at the CO2 levels from the past 800.000 years.

co2 3

As a matter of fact, in 2009, a research team from UCLA published a paper in Science concluded that we have to go back in time some 15 million years before we reach CO2 levels like those we have today; and that change happened in geologic time (hundreds of thousands/millions of years), slowly. The change we have today happened in about 100 years, so you can easily understand the differences.

So what does this mean? First of all, CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which in time causes global warming. Quite simply put, the more CO2 you have in the atmosphere, the hotter our planet gets. Considering how the CO2 level trend shows no intention of even slowing down, neither will global warming; on the contrary, IPCC models show the atmospheric concentration of CO2 could range between 541 and 970 ppm – an increase of 90–250% above the concentration in the year 1750. So rememeber this post until next year – we’ll be sure to remind you when we reach CO2 400 ppm.

Inspired by Think Progress

The real reasons why American CO2 emissions dropped this year

This year, we witnessed the United States’ carbon emissions drop to a record level, one that hasn’t been seen in the last 20 years. Lots of people started shouting and spreading misinformation, claiming that renewable energy and all those green measures were responsible for this remarkable feat. It would be great if this were true but sadly… it isn’t.

Hydraulic fracking

Basic drawing of hydraulic fracking

Arguably, the biggest role in this was played by hydraulic fracking – the very controversial method of extracting shale gas, which was inaccurately called by many a clean bridge fuel. For an equivalent energy production, hydraulic fracking produces much less CO2 emissions than burning coal, for example – but it has many other downsides.

The method is basically all about injecting an undisclosed mixture of chemicals (including radioactive elements) in the ground and creating an artificial fracture system, upon which the hydrocarbon can migrate towards the surface. It is associated with ground water contamination, risks to air quality, migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, mishandling of waste, and the health effects of all these. The University of Texas has conducted lengthy studies on this topic.

According to Slate:

The U.S. used to generate about half its electricity from coal, and roughly 20 percent from gas. Over the past five years, those numbers have changed, first slowly and now dramatically: In April of this year, coal’s share in power generation plummeted to just 32 percent, on par with gas.

It’s tempting to think that hydraulic fracking can, thus, take care of our environmental problems – but that’s just not true. Aside from the other, potentially much more dangerous hazards associated with the method, this will only delay our problems.

Global fossil carbon emissions

Exporting to Europe

The drop in US CO2 emissions coincided with a major surge in CO2 emissions by Europe. Why is that? You wouldn’t expect something like this from an industrialized continent like Europe. As hydraulic fracking lowered the cost of energy in the US, Americans started selling their now surplus coal to Europe – so the emissions went in the atmosphere, just some other place. This trend will also be short lived, as many of Europe’s coal mines are set to close. What with the coal then ? Well, the US will probably start selling it someplace else, most likely the underdeveloped parts of Asia.

A hot year

Lastly, there’s not so much need for heating on a warm year, right? This drought-filled year was one of the warmest on record.

So, tempting as it would be to think that renewable energy is responsible for this drop, you really have to look at the bigger picture and understand that at a global level, things haven’t really changed – and even inside the US, it’s not all peachy.

Canada pulls out of climate change pact, after increasing CO2 emissions instead of reducing them

As you may or may not know, these are the last days of a huge UN environmental summit taking place in Durban, South Africa. So far, discussions have yet to reveal a single interesting solution, even though researchers stress that delaying action will lead to higher costs and more damage done to the environment – possibly irreversible.

No, this is not Mordor - it's a Canadian oil refinery

Not only are there not any good news, but bad news seem to be showing up on a daily basis. Canada has backed out of the only international climate management pact ever signed, the Kyoto pact, dismissing it as a thing of the past, even though no official action has been taken in this direction. In order to excuse themselves, Canadians asked for a new pact that is to be signed by all major countries, including China and India. Russia and Japan officially agreed with this, but guess what – the US never even ratified the Kyoto pact, let alone a new one. Kind of says a lot about the ‘leading country in green energy’, doesn’t it ?

“Kyoto is the past,” Environment Minister Peter Kent told reporters in Ottawa, describing the decision by Canada’s previous Liberal government to sign on to the protocol as “one of the biggest blunders they made.”

The Conservative government has been attacked on numerous occasions by groups who accused them of recklessly dealing with Canada’s huge oil fields and totally ignoring the environment. Just so you can get an idea – the Kyoto pact obliged Canada to cut emissions to 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2012; in 2009, Canada had a 17 percent increase over 1990 levels, mostly because of an increase in oil extraction in Alberta.