Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Out of Sight Out of Mind

Smog of the visible sort
In the 1960's the smog was so thick in some U.S. cities you could not see more than a block down the street at times.

Some may ask: "Isn't smog which we can see worse than smog we cannot see?"

Because green house gases like methane and carbon dioxide are invisible, hasn't the Earth's atmosphere been cleaned up since the 1960's so that we can now be proud of our environmental accomplishments?

Does it matter, in terms of nonpoisonous, whether or not we can see carbon dioxide or methane, or are they still deadly in environmental terms?

The video clip at the bottom of this post simulates carbon dioxide with balloon looking balls, each representing one ton of carbon dioxide.

It shows how much is there, something we tend to be unaware of because when it is out of sight it tends to be out of mind.

The video helps us to graphically understand what this means:
Carbon dioxide is the single most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, contributing ~64% to radiative forcing by LLGHGs. It is responsible for 85% of the increase in radiative forcing over the past decade and 81% over the last five years. For about 10 000 years before the industrial revolution, the atmospheric abundance of CO2 was nearly constant at ~280 ppm. This level represented a balance among the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere.

Since 1750, atmospheric CO2 has increased by 39%, primarily because of emissions from combustion of fossil fuels (total of 8.4±0.5 PgC in 2009...), deforestation and land-use change. High-precision measurements of atmospheric CO2 beginning in 1958 show that the average increase in CO2 in the atmosphere corresponds to ~55% of the CO2 emitted by fossil fuel combustion. The remaining ~45% has been removed from the atmosphere by the oceans and the terrestrial biosphere. The airborne fraction, the portion of CO2 emitted by fossil fuel combustion that remains in the atmosphere, varies interannually without a confirmed global trend. Globally averaged CO2 in 2010 was 389.0 ppm and the increase from the previous year was 2.3 ppm (Figure 3). This growth rate is higher than the average for the 1990s (~1.5 ppm/yr) and the average for the past decade (~2.0 ppm/yr).
(UN WMO Report, PDF). This trend not only has continued, it also broke records in 2011:
The volume of greenhouse gases causing global warming rose to a new high last year, the UN World Meteorological Organization said Tuesday, warning it is becoming increasingly unlikely the world can limit rising temperatures to UN-backed targets.

Levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) — the single most important man-made contributor to climate change — rose to 390.9 parts per million in 2011, which is 2.0 ppm higher than in 2010, the WMO said.
(Raw Story). These numbers have catastrophic implications which the powers that be cannot seem to grasp, can't seem to comprehend:
Based on current pledges, global average temperatures could rise by three to five degrees Celsius (5.4 to 9.0 degrees Fahrenheit) this century — way above the two degrees Celsius being targeted, said a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

Urgent and decisive action could still see the world get back on track, but this would mean cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent to about 44 billion tonnes in 2020 from an estimated 50.1 billion tonnes per year now.
(UN: Goals ... further out of reach). These numbers represent what catastrophes like Katrina and Sandy look like on a graph, but maybe the video below illustrates it better for us.

Think of each "ball" as a bag of garbage, because pollution is garbage:


  1. "Barack Obama is being pressed for proof of his intent to act on climate change ahead of next week's United Nations global warming summit in Doha.

    The proof might boil down to just two words: two degrees. An early statement at Doha that America remains committed to the global goal of limiting warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels would be a clear sign.

    Every statement from US diplomats at the Doha negotiations will be closely scrutinised for signs that Obama will indeed make climate change a priority of his second term – and that America remains committed to the global agreement diplomats have been seeking for 20 years."


  2. Obama has a competent person he can rely on: (Chemical Soup Clouds).

  3. The nation's water is getting the same treatment (Poisoning The Well).