One of the greatest disappointments with my fellow man in my adult life, when starting to tackle the climate issue shortly after Dr. James Hanson’s testimony in 1988, has been witnessing the ceaseless uptrend in carbon levels in the atmosphere. No matter what world treaty is signed, like Kyoto or Copenhagen, dangerous carbon levels in the atmosphere continue to climb. No matter what organizations form to counter CO2 pollution, such as Bill McKibben’s 350.org, worldwide carbon levels are not curtailed. Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, seemingly had little effect. To my knowledge, except in the arctic, just as soon as oil or coal deposits are discovered, they are eventually burned despite valiant efforts to keep the stuff in the ground. Due mainly to fracking the planet is awash in oil. Only about a decade ago the phrase “peak oil” was bandied about. Now in 2017 civilization may be able to rely on oil for centuries to come, which won’t be a good thing. Green energy and technology may once more take a back seat to oil in some countries due to powerful and greedy interests. I will get on my political soap box in a future post, but for now, I will present some good information on just CO2 concentration trends as measured in the atmosphere on this post. I will also touch on personal vehicle number trends across the globe.
The most reliable measuring spot on the planet is at Mauna Loa in Hawaii started by the renowned scientist Dr. David Keeling. I find that the best site to get a quick graphic on month to month trends is CO2 Earth at: https://www.co2.earth/
The following Keeling Curve Monthly chart from CO2 plainly shows an increase in carbon by the Mauna Loa observatory in parts per million over the last three years:
There has been no change in the rate of CO2 increase in December, which is just under 3 parts per million per year. Recently I saw some very alarming information about CO2 rise in 2015 and 2016 after the planet, for the most part, recovered from the great recession of the last decade. I quote Keyes van der Leun at sustainable 2050 saying that “During 2015 and 2016, atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa jumped by +5.8 ppm: Highest growth in any 2-year period on record.” The following chart shows what Keyes van deer Leun was pointing to:
The spikes and nadirs on the chart can tell us something about what has been happening, industrially in recent years. Note that CO2 rate of rise did level off or even fall slightly from 2008 to 2009 mainly due to the great recession. Not anymore! Yes, thankfully green energy as well as better cars and less energy waste has put a slight crimp in CO2 pollution rates. The main problem is that in both the industrialized and developing worlds more people want more things, which requires more energy. It’s very simple math. Two cars getting 30 miles per gallon will use more gasoline than one using 20 miles per gallon. 30 divided by two = 15.
The following table summarizes the evolution of vehicle registrations in the world from 1960 to 2012 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_vehicle#cite_note-USeDataBook30-10 . Note that the increase in the rate of rise of CO2 since 1960 is nearly directly proportional to the number of vehicles on the road.:
Transportation “currently accounts for 23 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions,” wrote Brad Plumer wrote at the Washington Post in 2011.
The following is another chart confirming the increase in the number of vehicles: https://www.statista.com/statistics/281134/number-of-vehicles-in-use-worldwide/
Yes, the sad truth is that the planet’s hunger for vehicles has put a huge monkey wrench in any plans to curtail carbon pollution. Most people with means do not want to rely on mass transportation. Also, it takes a lot of energy to produce more vehicles, even if they are hybrids or are very efficient. We will visit coal use, which emits by far the most CO2 pollution, in a later post.
The Climate Guy