Carbon Emission Intensity of Economies

Historically, economic growth has been linked to CO2 emissions.  Although countries who obtain differing levels of per capita CO2 emissions can still have similar gross domestic product per capita levels, these differences occur due to the differences in the CO2 intensities of these economies.  The article on Our World In Data explains that CO2 intensity measures the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of GDP. There are two key factors which affect the CO2 intensity of an economy; energy efficiency, and carbon efficiency.  Both factors simultaneously work together, because as efficiency improves in both energy and carbon usage, the CO2 emitted per unit of energy will fall.

The graph provided in the article shows CO2 intensity from 1990 to 2013 as a linear downward trend.  The CO2 intensity rates have been steadily falling since 1990. This can be considered a result of improved energy/technology efficiency, and increased capacity of renewables.

According to the graph, over the 23 year period between 1990 and 2013;

Total Change: -0.12kg

Decay Factor: (0.47kg/0.35kg)=0.74

Percentage change: (1-0.74)=.26= 26% decrease


Source: CO₂ and other Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Our World in Data 

Investing in the Future

If how our society acts right now is how the future is going to be, its going to be a long road ahead to recovery. If we were to reduce our emissions by investing in nature then we would be promoting more sustainable options for a successful environment. Reducing fertiliser use and protecting wetlands from development are just a couple goals for sustainability in the future. There have been cases of finding and creating sustainable alternatives to current struggles we’re encountering as a society. For example in the realm of Co2 emissions, the following graph is a great representation of what has happened to date and what is actually the best way to approach the consistent worldwide epidemic of Co2 overuse.

If we were able to become more sustainable in Co2 emission, especially in the regions of South America and South East Asia then we could save the world from the years of future damage due to global climate change.



CO2 Levels are Rising

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a naturally occuring greenhouse gas that is a part of our atmosphere. The reliance on factories and various forms of transportation to burn fossil fuels have increased the amount of CO2 found in our atmosphere today. While, carbon dioxide only makes up 0.04% of the atmosphere this number has increased significantly overtime. Today CO2 levels consist of over 380 parts per million (ppm) but, prior to the Industrial Revolution carbon dioxide consisted of 270 ppm. Specifically, throughout this decade, CO2 levels have increased on average, 2.3ppm per year. Also, we emit 400 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. In metric units this is 362.874 Tonnes. Again, this number simply shows that while CO2 makes up less than 1% of our atmosphere, the unnatural increase of CO2 has shown negative effects.

It is important that we find a way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because it has serious effects on the environment such as making our oceans more acidic and increasing the temperature on earth.  A New York Times article discusses the fact that removing Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere is a potential way to stop global warming. The goal would be to keep the carbon dioxide below the two degree Celsius target estimated in 2015 by the Paris Agreement. However, this is an extremely difficult task. One suggestion would be to follow a process known as “direct air capture” to minimize its presence. All of the studies show that it is extremely hard to decrease the amount of CO2 currently in the atmosphere but it is crucial that we take conscious steps to reduce it for the future sake of our environment.

Finding a solution for high CO2 levels

A current environmental issue that is facing us today is how to control the rising levels of CO2 in the environment. CO2 levels have been increasing at a record rate, with the levels raising to 400.83ppm in 2015. This was an increase of 3.03ppm from the previous year, making it the first year that CO2 raised by more than 3ppm. Now, as of yesterday, the current CO2 levels are 405.19ppm. There is clearly a need to be concerned about the future of CO2 levels and a need to determine ways to slow their rising levels and begin to decrease the levels over time.

One idea that has been considered by scientists comes from the knowledge that trees consume CO2 in order to grow and, in turn, remove some CO2 from the environment. Additionally, they emit much-needed oxygen into the environment. In order to test the theory that trees may suck up CO2 and make strides in cleaning the atmosphere, scientists created a model environment that aimed to replicate the high CO2 levels that are inevitable in our future. They sprayed 2 tons of pure carbon dioxide into the canopies of trees in a 500 square meter plot every day for 6 months. This created an atmosphere with about 530 ppm of CO2, which is about 150% of what exists today.

Unfortunately, their experiment did not yield the results they had hoped for. The CO2 did not enhance the growth of the trees and leaves, rather the CO2 quickly passed through the bodies of the trees and quickly returned to the atmosphere. There was no decline in CO2 in the atmosphere and the extra CO2 did nothing to help with the photosynthesis of the trees or their oxygen emissions. Unfortunately, this demonstrates a need for more research to be done as to how to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.

Article Link:

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide’s Effect on Marine Life

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide rates are now higher than at any point in the last 800,000 years. According to a study conducted by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, CO2 concentration in Earth’s atmosphere has not been this high since Earth’s average temperature ranged from 2-3 degrees Celsius, which is equivalent to 3.6-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Because Carbon Dioxide is a gas that absorbs heat, it also releases this heat gradually over time. As more fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are burned annually for energy, the CO2 is being released at a higher rate, thus heating up the earth more quickly, and contributing to climate change. The NOAA predicts that this increase in atmospheric CO2 is likely responsible for two-thirds of the total energy imbalance that is causing Earth’s temperature to rise.

Throughout the NOAA’s report, they explained how Carbon Dioxide plays an interesting role in Earth’s system because it dissolves into the ocean. When CO2 reacts with these molecules of water, it produces Carbonic Acid, which lowers the ocean’s pH. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the ocean’s pH has shifted from 8.21 to 8.10. This ocean acidification drop of approximately 0.1 is extremely vital in the survival of marine life. This very small change in pH creates a 30 percent increase of acidity to the ocean.

Ocean acidification goes into the idea of measurements we had previously discussed in class. Looking from an outside perspective, without knowing the consequences, we would assume that a 0.1 acidity increase is virtually nothing. However, it’s effect is more detrimental than we think.  The 30 percent acidity increase makes it more difficult for marine life to extract calcium from the water to build their shells and skeletons. Therefore, through our study of scales and measurements, the context of each situation is extremely important when analyzing sustainability issues.



Source: Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide