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creating more plankton,
one idea to reduce carbon dioxide...
Some scientists and economist have estimated that an expenditure of 1 percent of global GDP spent today on tackling global warming would save 5 percent to 20 percent of GDP by the end of the century through reducing problems created by climate change. The British scientist Steven Hawkings put tackling global warming on the level of tackling nuclear weapons. Al Gore called it a “planetary emergency.”

For carbon dioxide emission to stabilize emissions need to be reduced by 60 to 80 percent. Yet during the late 1990s and early 2000s, emissions continued to rise at a rate of 2 percent a year. By some estimate carbon dioxide levels will triple, reaching 2 billion tons, by 2100 if nothing is done.

Scientists first began thinking seriously about global warming in the 1980s. Governments set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1989 to address the issue. Emissions of greenhouse gases by industry are declining. The main sources of emission increases are power plants and vehicles. Of particular concern are the large number of coal-fired power plants in China, the United States and India and increases in the number of vehicles in China, India and the developing world.

Many scientists, analysts and environmentalists believe the technology and know-how is out there take on global warming what is necessary is to come upon with money and political will to tackle it.Manish Bapna and Jennifer Morgan wrote in the Washington Post, “At least 85 nations have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or limit their growth by 2020 by shifting to renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency and protecting forests, among other efforts. Similarly, some Fortune 500 companies and even the U.S. military are working to reduce their carbon emissions. A good start, but not nearly enough. [Source: Manish Bapna and Jennifer Morgan, Washington Post, July 22 2011. Manish Bapna is interim president of the World Resources Institute. Jennifer Morgan is director of the institute’s climate and energy program.]

Methods for Combating Global Warming

Carbon dioxide emission can be reduced if people: 1) drive less and take other measures to cut down on the burning of fossil fuels; 2) reduce deforestation and plant more trees; and 3) improving agricultural practices. The greatest and most immediate progress can be made by A) switching from coal, oil and fossil fuels to alternative energies such as wind, solar and nuclear power; B) better managing forest and farms; and C) conserving energy through riding bicycles, eating less beef and making houses energy efficient. Improvements can also be made by switching from coal and oil to cleaner natural gas.

The expanding usage of solar, wind and other renewable energies flattened the global carbon dioxide emission to approximately 33 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2019 based on the global emissions report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) The global emissions of carbon dioxide from coal use lowered by approximately 200 million tonnes (Mt) in the same year. Data from the IEA suggests that the power sector led the ongoing clean energy transition and contributed to lowering the harmful carbon dioxide emissions. Global carbon dioxide emissions dropped in 2020 due to lockdown policies imposed in many countries as a result of Covid-19. In April 2020, the daily CO2 emissions were approximately at the level they were in 2006. [Source: Trish Novicio, Insider Monkey, March 16, 2021]

By many measures coal is the single biggest contributor to climate change. The most obvious way of reducing coal greenhouse emissions would be to use less of it. Research is also underway to address emissions of CO2 from coal combustion. One method is carbon capture, which separates CO2 from emissions sources and recovers it in a concentrated stream. The CO2 can then be injected underground for permanent storage, or sequestration. For information on Clean Coal Plants Separate Article COAL, HISTORY, MINING, MINERS, COAL PLANTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Air travel is responsible for about 3 percent of greenhouse gases, a share that is rapidly growing larger. Some have argued that one of the best ways to combat global warming is to take the train. Eating less meat, particularly beef, has been suggested as a way to reduce methane emissions.

In a 2007 study published in PNAS, researchers said that in addition to protecting the ozone layer, the reduction on ozone-depleting chemicals has slowed the rate of global warming. The Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, led to a reduction in chemicals released into the atmosphere in an effort to preserve the ozone layer that screens out many of the sun's damaging rays. Those same chemicals are also potent contributors to greenhouse warming, and their reduction has resulted in a slowdown in global warming, according to a team led by Guus J. M. Velders of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. The savings in trapped heat are equivalent to about 10 years of growth in carbon dioxide concentrations, they estimated. Joining Velders in that study were researchers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and DuPont Fluoroproducts. [Source: Randolph E. Schmid, AP, March 6, 2007]

Roof gardens are being pushed as way to suck up carbon dioxide and combat global warming in urban areas. Some have suggested whitening the world: with white roofs and white-washed villages like these found in Greece. The idea got a major boost when U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in 2009 that whitening surfaces would became a major part of the U.S. strategy to combat global warming. Ahead of him was California, which put “cool roof” regulations on the books to building more heat-reflecting buildings. White surfaces reflect hot sunlight back out int space and reduce heat — most notably the urban “heat island” effect — and thus reduce the need for air conditioners , which are major carbon producers, A typical roof absorbs three quarters of the heat that strikes it; white roofs only absorb 20 percent. One of the biggest challenges is what to do with all the blacktop roads, which are major absorbers of heat. Ideas floating around include putting reflective materials in pavement or using white aggregates such as marble chips.

Renewable Energy and Climate Change

riding bicycles more, another idea
Renewable energy, excluding hydroelectric power, still accounted for only a fraction of the world’s energy supply in the 2000s. At that most of it came from biomass and wood and waste burning. Since then a lot of wind farms have been built and solar panels have been installed on roofs and fields. By 2050 perhaps a third of the world’s energy needs could be met with alternative energy sources such as wind, solar power and hydrogen fuel cells.

Many feel the best way to approach the future is to not to rely on just one main source but utilize all the sources available: wind, solar, biomass. There was a lot of investment and research in alternative energies after the energy crises in the 1970s but the funding dried up when oil prices dropped in the 1990s. Energy growth rates between 1990 and 1999: 1) wind power (24.2 percent); 2) solar energy (17.3 percent); 3) geothermal (4.3 percent); and 4) hydroelectric (1.8 percent).

Renewable energy has its problems, Utilities don’t like wind and solar power because they are unreliable and vary in accordance with the availability of wind and sun. Wind and solar power require large amounts of space. An aging natural gas well generates 60,000 cubic feet per day, more than 20 times the watts per square meter of a wind turbine. Nuclear power plants produce about 56 watts per square meter, eight times as much is derived from solar photovoltaic installations. Add to this transmissions lines necessary to carry the power from energy farms in unpopulated to populated areas where the energy is needed. In the developed world alternative energy projects are often held up by regulations, disputes and lawsuits from local people using laws that were designed to protect property rights and local interests. These laws are often given precedence over laws that favor large energy projects on the grounds they they help the greater good.

Electric vehicles need lithium and rare earths, meaning that one resource addiction becomes replaced with another. What is alarming about of rare earths is that China is virtually the only source. At least with oil there are a number of sources: at least 20 countries produce more than 1 million barrels of oil a day.Hydrogen cell cars are not really an answer. Separating the hydrogen requires more energy than the hydrogen produces.

Kyoto Protocol of 1997

The 1997 Kyoto protocol is an international agreement requiring participating nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, factories and other sources at home. Adopted during the third Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP3) conference in Kyoto in December 1997, attened by 150 countries, the protocol set greenhouse gas reduction targets for each nation from 2008 to 2012 based on 1990 emission levels. Japan, for example, was required to cut its emissions by a yearly average of 6 percent during this period. Later it was decided that the time frame set at the Kyoto meeting would be extended until a new anti-global warming agreement took affect. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, CNN]

192 parties ratified the protocol (191 states and one regional economic integration organization). China, the United States and India — the world's top three greenhouse gas emitters — were not subject to reduction obligations under the Kyoto accord. The United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol and dropped out in 2001. China and India ratified it.

The Kyoto protocol mandated that 37 industrialized nations plus the European Community cut their greenhouse gas emissions. Developing nations were asked to voluntarily comply. More than 100 developing countries, including China and India, were exempted from the treaty. The signatories agreed to cut their country's emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. The treaty also established an international trading system, which allows countries to earn credits toward their emission target by investing in emission cleanups outside their own country.

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wind farms in western China

Paris Agreement of 2015

The Paris Agreement, also referred to as the Paris Accords, is an international treaty on climate change, adopted in 2015 that covers climate change mitigation, adaptation, and finance. The Agreement was negotiated by 196 parties at the United Nations Climate Change Conference near Paris, France in April and May 2015. The Agreement requires parties to carry out a process colloquially known as the 'ratchet mechanism' every five years to provide improved national pledges,

The Paris Agreement's long-term temperature goal is to keep the rise in mean global temperature substantially below 2 °C (3.6 °F) above pre-industrial levels, and preferably limit the increase to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) under the assumption that goal could more realistically be achieved and would substantially reduce the effects of climate change. The aim is to shrink emissions as soon as possible and reach net-zero by the middle of the 21st century. To reach the goal of below 1.5 °C of global warming, emissions need to reduced by roughly 50 percent by 2030. This is an aggregate of each country's nationally determined contributions.

Under the Agreement, each country is required to set up a plan, and regularly report on progress. Thre are no rules about specific emissions targets, but each target should go beyond previous targets. In contrast to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, distinctions between developed and developing countries were lessened, with developing countries also required to submit emission reduction plans. The Agreement was trumpeted by world leaders, but criticised for lacking enforcement mechanisms by some environmentalists. A about the effectiveness of the Agreement is ongoing..

Durban in 2011 and COP-26 in 2021

The 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17) was held in Durban, South Africa in November and December 2011 with the aim of establishing a new treaty to limit carbon emissions. After a 60-hour marathon negotiation session, negotiators agreed to be part of a legally binding treaty to address global warming. The terms of the future treaty were to be defined by 2015 and become effective in 2020. The agreement, referred to as the "Durban Platform for Enhanced Action", was notable in that for the first time it included developing countries such as China and India, as well as the US which had refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly referred to as COP26, was held in Glasgow in Scotland in October and November 2021. The conference was the first since the Paris Agreement of COP21 in 2015. More than 25,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries attended, including around 120 heads of state.

Among the leaders and celebrities that showed up were U.S. President Joe Biden, former U.S. President Barack Obama, Prince Charles, Leonardo DiCaprio, Greta Thunberg, Prince William and Kate, Emma Watson, Stella McCartney, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), French President Emmanuel Macron, David Attenborough and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Notable absences were Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin. Shortly before COP-26, Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Patrick Bartholomew, the world’s three main Christian leaders issued “A Joint Message for the Protection of Creation,” asking Christians everywhere to “listen to the cry of the Earth”. [Source: Kim Heacox, The Guardian, October 7, 2021]

The result of COP26 was the Glasgow Climate Pact, negotiated through consensus of the representatives of the 197 attending parties. Primarily as the result of late moves by India and China, the goal of ending coal power and fossil fuel subsidies was watered down. Even so, the pact was the first climate deal to explicitly commit to reducing the use of coal — the single biggest contributor to climate change. It also included wording that encouraged aggressive greenhouse gas emissions cuts and promised financial help to developing countries to adapt to climate impacts.

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large power plant in Tianjin, China

Stratospheric Aerosol Geoengineering — Pumping Sulfur Dioxide Into the Upper Atmosphere

One idea being seriously considered is “stratospheric aerosol geoengineering” — the idea that adding a layer of aerosol particles to the upper atmosphere could reduce climate changes caused by greenhouse gases. Tom Wigley of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research was one of the first to suggest lofting tons of sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere 16 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. A pollutant that causes acid rain on Earth, sulfur dioxide in the form of sulfate aerosol particles shades the planet like ash clouds of a major volcanic eruption such as Mt, Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991. A large amount of sulfur dioxide would be needed.

Scientists at Atmospheric Research Center in Boulder, Colorado calculated about 1.5 million tons of sulfur dioxide a year, or about 15 percent of the U.S. production, would be needed to counteract the effects of global warming. About 17 million tons of sulfur dioxide was released by the Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines in 1991. The easiest way to transport the sulfur dioxide to the upper atmosphere would be to deposit it from hundreds of planes or perhaps add it airplane fuel so it is released as exhaust.

According to Science Daily research has shown “that solar geoengineering could be achieved using commercially available aircraft technologies to deliver the particles at a cost of a few billion dollars per year and would reduce global average temperatures. However, the question remains whether this approach could reduce important climate hazards at a regional level. That is, could it reduce region-by-region changes in water availability or extreme temperatures? Results from a study by UCL and Harvard researchers suggest that even a crude method like injecting sulphur dioxide in the stratosphere could reduce many important climate hazards without making any region obviously worse off. [Source: Science Daily, University College London, March 19, 2020]

“The findings, published in Environmental Research Letters, used results from a sophisticated simulation of stratospheric aerosol geoengineering to evaluate whether the approach could offset or worsen the effects of climate change around the world. How these effects differed under different temperature scenarios was also tested. The team found that halving warming by adding aerosols to the stratosphere could moderate important climate hazards in almost all regions. They saw an exacerbation of the effects of climate change in only a very small fraction of land areas.”

scheme to use sulfur dioxide to reduce global warming

Far-Fetched Ideas for Combating Global Warming

A number of far fetched ideas have been suggested to combat global warming. These include: 1) launching billions of tiny mirrors into orbit to reflect the solar radiation away from the Earth; 2) spraying whiteners like sulfate aerosols onto clouds so they reflection sunlight back into space; 3) and installing carbon-dioxide-sucking mechanical trees. A number of designs for these “trees” have been proposed. Some look like huge flyswatters set up on the sides of highways. Others resemble long tubes set up on the sides of buildings.

Some off the ideas have major obstacles to overcame. For example no one is really sure how to launch into the upper atmosphere 1 million tiny mirrors a minute for 30 years — the number necessary to make a difference — and what the long term effects of that might be. The highway “trees” are estimated to cost about $20,000 each. Around 100,00 are deemed necessary have any impact at all. On top of that the problem of storing all the carbon that is collected has not been worked out.

Another idea that is gaining some support is using ammonia as a fuel, Ammonia fuel has about half the fire power of gasoline and is much easier to dal witj than hydrogen, which is being touted as a miracle fuel, During World War II, buses in Belgium, ran on ammonia, Already the technology exist to “crack ammonia into hydrogen for use in hydrogen fuel cell cars. Some scientists have suggested creating carbon scrubbers that could be set up by the millions to extract carbon dioxide from the air as it is blown through panes of a special plastic. The carbon dioxide is then collected and converted into hydrocarbons that could be used as fuel. The technology for the plastic is being developed but no one has yet to figure out to convert carbon dioxide to hydrocarbons. Until then carbon dioxide could be stored in underground storage areas.

Some have even suggested dumping Special K cereal into the sea to increase the sea’s reflectivity, inhibiting its absorption of heat and thus keeping it cooler.

Carbon Capture and Storage and Deep-Well Injection

Some scientists and environmentalist say one solution to the excess carbon dioxide problem is to capture greenhouse gases and store them out of harms way by burying them in mines or cavities of porous rock left behind when oil and gas are extracted or pumping the gases into layers deep in the ocean. The high pressure of injecting carbon dioxide into oil and gas fields could help squeeze out the last remaining oil and gas from these fields. Experiments and relatively small-scale implementations of this idea have been tried but doing it on a scale that could reduce carbon in the atmosphere is still many years down the road.

A good place to excess carbon dioxide and other gases is in cavities that used to hold natural gas. Natural gas is found in deep, saline-rich limestone and sandstone cavities, where spongelike pores store gas and keep it from leaking away. These site sites are known and mapped. Some sites have pumping technology on hand that could be used to pump carbon dioxide in the cavity.

The Energy Department in the United States once set the goal of capturing 90 percent of its carbon emissions by 2012 by separating out carbon dioxide from the exhaust of power plants. But such a scheme can use up to one third of the energy produced by the power plant. Scrubbers must be installed, pipelines have to be built and carbon dioxide levels in the ground must be carefully monitored. The costs raise the cost of producing electricity by around 10 percent.

The European Union has called for all new coal-fired plants built after 2020 to be outfit with carbon capture technology. A number of experiments involving the technology are current being conducted. A test of carbon storage in the Dutch town if Barendrecht in the late 2000s raised some serious question about the practicality of the method. The primary issue was that people that lived in houses above the deep earth chambers where the carbon was stored were not so crazy about the idea and they worried about its effects on their property values. On their minds was the sudden release of carbon dioxide that caused the deaths of 1,700 people at a volcanic lake in Cameron in 1986. Most sites chosen for carbon capture are isolated and do not affect many people but there can be other problems such as the effect of carbon on aquifers. If the technology is applied on a large scale so much carbon will be stored, some populated areas are sure to be affected.

Carbon sequestration

To explore the feasibility of carbon dioxide storage, about 10 million tons of carbon dioxide has been buried one kilometer under the North Sea in a deep saline aquifer through a 50-centimeter-wide tube at an oil-gas platform 250 kilometers off the coast of Norway by the Norwegian oil and gas group StatoilHydro. In the process Statoil has saved $53 million in Norwegian carbon taxes.

Using the deep-well injection method water is pumped separately into oil wells used to store carbon dioxide. When the well is full with carbon dioxide it is capped. Deep-well injection not only gets rid of carbon dioxide it also boost oil and gas production by forcing residual deposit to the surface. In old fields deep-well injection has boosted production by as much as 50 percent. Deep-well injection unfortunately can can also bring briny water to the surface that can pollute streams and aquifers. In addition, carbon dioxide can convert to acid in ground water. In some places where deep-well injection has taken place earthquakes have been reported.

In the northern United States and southern Canada tests of being conducted using a 200-mile-long pipeline to send carbon dioxide from a gasification power plant to an oil field, where the gas is pumped into an oil field. The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) is developing technology to seal off carbon dioxide in seabed coal fields and convert it to natural gas using microorganisms.

Researchers Turn Carbon Dioxide Into Stone

Researchers in Iceland reported in 2016 that they had found a unique way of tackling climate change — pumping carbon dioxide underground and turning it into stone. Other carbon capture and storage (CCS) methods store CO2 as a gas, but problems include a high cost and concern about leakage. This new method of burying CO2 and turning it into stone is cheaper and more secure, a report in the Guardian said.

According to Time magazine: “To turn C02 to stone, researchers with the Carbfix project pumped the gas into volcanic rock and sped up the natural process in which basalts react with gas and form carbonate minerals. The gas turned into solid in just two years—much faster than the hundreds or thousands of years researchers had predicted. [Source: Rosalie Chan, Time, June 10, 2016]

“The research took place at Iceland’s Hellisheidi power plant, the largest geothermal facility in the world. Already, the project in Iceland has been increased in scale to bury 10,000 tons of CO2 each year. “One potential difficulty is that for each ton of CO2 buried, the technique requires 25 tons of water. However, Juerg Matter of the University of Southampton in the U.K., who led the research, said seawater could be used.

Carbon sequestration

Carbon Trading

Some experts have argued that the best way to address global warming is to use a carbon trading system. Under the scheme governments and companies buy and trade carbon credits allowing those who need to purchase them and those who don’t to profit from selling them, with an overall reduction in emissions taking place. Over time the caps and limits of carbon production would be reduced solving the global warming problem. The scheme was developed in the United States in the 1980s to reduce acid rain.

Carbon trading is seen as a flexible alternative to taxes or government regulations. Trading creates market incentives for companies to cut their emissions. It functions by setting annual limits on carbon emissions for intensive energy sectors, such as manufacturing or heavy industry, and employs a system in which permits are issued that allow the production of carbon up to set amounts. Companies that emit less carbon than their permit allows can sell their remaining allowances to firms that exceed their quota. This way the market generates a price for carbon according to simple laws of supply and demand as long as the scheme operates within set geographical areas. The United Nations Clean Development Mechanism was set up to facilitate carbon dioxide trades between rich countries and poor ones. It handled nearly $3 billion in payments in 2006. This was only two years after it certified its first project, in 2004.

The cost of eliminating a ton of carbon dioxide in Japan can be as high as $200 a ton compared to as little as $1 a ton in China. This has created an incentive for companies in Japan and Europe, which signed the Kyoto Protocol, to offset their rising emission by paying companies in China and the developing world to reduce their emissions for them. There are many flaws with the carbon trading program: namely does it really accomplish anything. Many environmentalists criticize it for not pushing renewable energy and the fact it ends up doing more to enrich a few bankers and traders who carry out the trades and in the end does little to combat global warning.

The United States, the European Union and other countries have signed carbon trading agreements. Carbon trading by some estimates was predicted to be worth $300 billion by 2020. But that hasn't happened. In 2012, The Guardian reported: The world’s only global system of carbon trading, designed to give poor countries access to new green technologies, has “essentially collapsed”, jeopardising future flows of finance to the developing world." Billions of dollars have been raised in the past seven years through the United Nations system to set up greenhouse gas-cutting projects, such as windfarms and solar panels, in poor nations. But the failure of governments to provide firm guarantees to continue with the system beyond this year has raised serious concerns over whether it can survive. [Source: Fiona Harvey The Guardian, September 14, 2012]

In the late 2000s, there were climate exchanges in Europe where the price of a ton carbon dioxide rose and fell like a commodity or stock. When the scheme was introduced in 2005 a ton sold for as little as 75 cent but by 2010 it had climbed to as high as $30 a ton. At the European Climate Exchange (ECX) in London — the world’s largest emissions-trading market — in 2010 two types of trades were conducted: 1) cap-and trade, in which companies that exceed their caps (limits on the emissions they are allowed to produce) can purchase emission allowances from other companies; and 2) Clean Development Mechanism trades which allow industrialized countries to invest in environmental projects in developing countries, with the emission cuts in the developing countries chalked as reductions for the industrialized countries.

As is true with stocks, securities, commodities and futures markets, the prices fluctuated, traders tried to make profits and major trading houses and financial institutions were the biggest players. Trading volume at the ECX in 2009 was 5.1 billion tons, almost double the figure in 2008, and 50 times what it was in 2006. China was home to 84 percent of the Clean development Mechanism projects in 2008, followed by India with 4 percent . Some complain the market is being taking over by speculators and traders and this has undermined its mission. Prices per ton have fluctuated between a peak of $40 a ton and to a low of about $11. Some people have made profits; others have lost money but overll the scheme hasn’t done much to actually reduce emissions according to a 2009 study by Dutch research institute.


Fighting Global Warming in the Developing World

Suggestions for fighting global warming in the developing world include: 1) using “human-powered” treadle pumps rather than diesel pumps; 2) burning dung rather than firewood in stoves (in some places villagers are encouraged to collect cow paddies and put them in “biogas convertors” to create renewable fuel); 3) using windmills; 4) planting trees; 5) using cleaner, more efficient stoves; and 6) using more energy-efficient light bulbs.

Treadle pumps are worked by people who step on pedals. They are used mostly to bring groundwater and well water to the surface to fill irrigation ditches in fields. NGOs involved in promoting the technology say they reduce poverty, improve agriculture and enable men to stay with their families rather than going off to the cities to work. Climate Care (See Below) is involved in promoting treadle pumps. It calculates that each one saves 0.66 tons of carbon dioxide a year, a figure arrived at mainly by calculating how greenhouse gases would be used were a diesel pump used.

Climate Care is an NGO involved in promoting clean and low-greenhouse-gas technologies. People who take a long airplane trip or do something else that creates a lot of greenhouse gases give money to Climate Care and the organization takes action to reduce the amount of gases created by planting trees or promoting the use of low-greenhouse-gas technologies in developing countries. Climate care’s “carbon calculator,” for example, calculates that round trip flight from London to Madrid burns 0.68 tons of carbon dioxide and requires a payment of $9.87 to fix. Some critics have accused Climate Care of promising more than it can delivers and “misleading the public, making them believe that offsetting does some good” with claims that its methods save more greenhouse gases than they actually do.

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Human presence reflected by nightime light use

Carbon Tax

Some argue that the only way we can can make a serious dent in global warming is to have a carbon tax. One of its primary aims is to discourage carbon-heavy activities such as driving cars or taking long flights or manufacturing certain products. Such a tax should be equivalent to the damage caused. The best estimate of this is about $7/ton of CO2 or $0.06/gallon of gasoline. Most developed countries already have a tax of this size (and often much larger) on electricity and fossil fuels, although this also incorporates the costs of air pollution and supply insecurity.

The problem with a carbon a tax is that it is difficult to implement and is unpopular with the public and business. There are also concerns it could thwart economic growth and be too much of a burden on the poor. Dieter Helm, an economist and professor of energy policy at Oxford University, favors the carbon tax because it places the emphasis on carbon consumption — those who use the steel, for example — -rather than carbon production — where the steel mill is located. He told the Los Angeles Times, “We in the West are the cause of many of the emissions in China. China is producing goods for us that we would have produced... We could have had a steel mill here; instead, it's now in China. Well, we're still consuming the steel, so it's our emissions. So I like the idea of a border price of carbon to make us in the West pay for the pollution we're causing in China and other countries.” [Source: Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times November 21, 2009]

On implementing a carbon tax, Helm said, “We could start off with just the real energy-intensive products. We roughly know what the energy composition is of, say, steel. We certainly know what the energy composition would be of fossil fuels. We know quite a lot about the emissions from aviation, and a lot about the emissions from shipping. So I would start pretty crudely with a very narrow number of things covered, and then over time I would expand it. Start simple -- indeed, start with a low price as well -- but signal that you mean business so that those who are making investments in the future know that when they build a new steel plant, when they build a new power station, there will be a higher price if they do not go down the low-carbon route.

In 2011, Australia introduced a carbon tax. Many people were not pleased about it. AFP reported: “Airlines, miners and industry launched a furious attack on Australia's bold new tax on carbon emissions, as Prime Minister Julia Gillard began selling the levy to sceptical voters. Business leaders warned the tax on the nation's 500 biggest polluters would not only cost taxpayers billions and force major industry to slash production and jobs, but would fail to reduce global carbon emissions. The government defended the scheme, which will price carbon at $24.74 per ton from July 1 212, saying it was the best way to help slow global warming and save natural treasures such as the Great Barrier Reef. The plan was sharply attacked by Australia's conservative opposition party and Gillard was forced out of office not long afterwards, [Source: AFP, July 11, 2011]

Arnold Schwarzenegger on Energy Conservation

On achievements that have been made on the national and sub-national level without international agreements, Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote in the Christian Science Monitor, “In Oslo, Norway, they have reduced energy consumption by 70 percent simply by using an innovative and energy-efficient form of streetlights...The African region of Okavango planted 300,000 acres of trees, which will sequester 30 million tons of carbon dioxide. [Source: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christian Science Monitor, November 18, 2010]

The state of South Australia is on track to generate 33 percent of its power from renewable sources by the year 2020. Across its various regions, China is investing billions of dollars in electric and hybrid vehicles South Africa is developing a solar project that, when complete, will provide one-eighth of all of the energy of the entire country. Twenty-nine of New York City’s universities and hospitals have accepted Mayor Bloomberg’s challenge to reduce their emissions by 30 percent within the next few years.

Here in California, we just broke ground on the world’s largest solar plant and the world’s largest wind farm, providing enough energy to power 740,000 homes. We have already approved solar plants that will provide 4,000 megawatts of energy. In short, we are very well on the way to our goal of generating 33 percent of our energy from renewables by the year 2020. And that is not even including hydro. When you fly over California, you will see solar panels blanketing the state — on homes, prisons, hospitals and university buildings; on parking garages and warehouses.

Because of our environmental laws, California is now 40 percent more energy efficient per capita than the rest of the United States. More than one-third of the world’s clean-tech venture capital flows right here out of our state. We lead the nation in clean energy patents and clean energy businesses. For example, one such company, Solazyme, which produces fuel from algae, now has a contract with the US Navy that will power its ships and jets with that fuel. That is the business of the future.

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CO2 responsibility 1950-2000

Economic and Efforts to Combat Global Warming

One of the greatest contributions to the fight against global warming in recent years was the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, which resulted in the slowing down of economic activity which meant less energy was consumed and less products were made and less greenhouse gases were produced.

A study by the IPPC in 2007 estimated the cost of reducing greenhouse would be between 0.2 percent and 0.6 percent of global GDP in 2030, with some models showing that taking measures to reduce the burning of fossil fuels could even mean a small boost to the world economy. In December 2006, the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change — headed by Nicholas Stern, former would Bank chief — recommenced that 1 percent of the world’s GNP — about $150 billion a year — should be immediately invested to reduce the impact of global warming, and said failure to do so could risk future economic activity by as much as 20 percent.

Bjørn Lomborg wrote in the Christian Science Monitor: “In the Cambridge University Press book Smart Solutions to Climate Change, prominent climate economist Richard Tol shows why grand promises of drastic, immediate carbon cuts are such a flawed strategy. Tol found that trying to keep temperature increases under 2̊C, as the G-8 industrialized nations have promised to do, would require emissions reductions of about 80 percent by mid-century. Based on conventional estimates, this would avoid total climate damages of about $1.1 trillion across the century. However, it would cut economic growth by around $40 trillion a year. In other words, we would effectively be spending $40 trillion every year by the end of the century to do just over $1 trillion worth of total good. [Source: Bjørn Lomborg, Christian Science Monitor, September 10, 2010]

Companies, NGOs, and scientists have developed the "Exponential Roadmap" intending to cut the global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 by following 36 scalable solutions that focus on different sectors including transportation, industrialization, construction and food consumption. [Source: Trish Novicio, Insider Monkey, March 16, 2021]

Ramez Naam wrote in the Slate: “But in the end, only one thing matters when it comes to determining what energy technology will be deployed: price. Governments, industry, and consumers choose whatever source of energy comes with the lowest price tag. By moving toward cap-and-trade and a carbon tax, is seeking to affect that price tag. And by driving both the manufacturing and deployment of renewable energy, green technology investment is also fueling a tremendous amount of research and development, driving down the intrinsic price of solar panels and wind turbines. When that price gets low enough—through whatever combination of innovation and market-correcting policies get us there—the whole world will shift its behavior. [Source: Ramez Naam, Slate, May 8, 2013]

Bendable Concrete Made from C02-Infused Cement

Bendable concrete produced at the University of Michigan could go a long way to reducing climate change. Researchers there wrote in The Conversation:“The production of cement, the binding element in concrete, accounted for 7 percent of total global carbon dioxide emissions in 2018. Concrete is one of the most-used resources on Earth, with an estimated 26 billion tons produced annually worldwide. That production isn’t expected to slow down for at least two more decades. “Given the scale of the industry and its greenhouse gas emissions, technologies that can reinvent concrete could have profound impacts on climate change. [Source: Victor C. Li, Lucca Henrion, Volker Sick, and Duo Zhang, all from the University of Michigan, The Conversation, February 15, 2021]

“As engineers working on issues involving infrastructure and construction, we have been designing the next generation of concrete technology that can reduce infrastructure’s carbon footprint and increase durability. That includes CO2-infused concrete that locks up the greenhouse gas and can be stronger and even bendable.

Concrete is made up of aggregate materials — primarily rocks and sand — along with cement and water. Because about 80 percent of concrete’s carbon footprint comes from cement, researchers have been working to find substitute materials. Industrial byproducts such as iron slag and coal fly ash are now frequently used to reduce the amount of cement needed. The resulting concrete can have significantly lower emissions because of that change. Alternative binders, such as limestone calcined clay, can also reduce cement use. One study found that using limestone and calcinated clay could reduce emissions by at least 20 percent while also cutting production costs.

“Apart from developing blended cements, researchers and companies are focusing on ways to use captured CO2 as an ingredient in the concrete itself, locking it away and preventing it from entering the atmosphere. CO2 can be added in the form of aggregates — or injected during mixing. Carbonation curing, also known as CO2 curing, can also be used after concrete has been cast.

“These processes turn CO2 from a gas to a mineral, creating solid carbonates that may also improve the strength of concrete. That means structures may need less cement, reducing the amount of related emissions. Companies such as CarbonCure and Solidia have developed technologies to use these processes for concrete poured at construction sites and in precast concrete, such as cinder blocks and other construction materials.

At the University of Michigan, we are working on composites that produce a bendable concrete material that allows thinner, less brittle structures that require less steel reinforcement, further reducing related carbon emissions. The material can be engineered to maximize the amount of CO2 it can store by using smaller particles that readily react with CO2, turning it to mineral.

“The CO2-based bendable concrete can be used for general buildings, water and energy infrastructure, as well as transportation infrastructure. Bendable concrete was used in the 61-story Kitahama tower in Osaka, Japan, and roadway bridge slabs in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Being Prepared for Changes Brought by Global Warming

Manish Bapna and Jennifer Morgan wrote in the Washington Post, “Many countries, cities and communities are preparing for the impact of rising global temperatures. In Bangladesh, for example, the government’s actions to improve disaster preparedness have helped reduce death tolls from cyclones. Cyclone Sidr in 2007 claimed 3,400 lives, whereas a similar cyclone in 1991 led to roughly 140,000 deaths. And Vietnam has invested in mangrove restoration to rebuild a natural barrier to protect coastlines from flooding. The World Resources Report 2010-2011, produced by the World Resources Institute, the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Environment Program and the World Bank, highlights how governments are planning for climate change and extreme weather.[Source: Manish Bapna and Jennifer Morgan, Washington Post, July 22 2011. Manish Bapna is interim president of the World Resources Institute. Jennifer Morgan is director of the institute’s climate and energy program.]

Utrecht University Hydrology Prof. Marc Bierken said governments in the Himalayan region should adapt to the projected water shortages by shifting to crops that use less water, engaging in better irrigation practices and building more and larger facilities to store water for extended periods of time. "We estimate that the food security of 4.5 percent of the total population will be threatened as a result of reduce water availability," the researchers wrote. "The strong need for prioritizing adaptation options and further increasing water productivity is therefore eminent."

Some business leaders have said that people are just going to have to learn to live with global warming and its consequences, Paul Dickerson of the London-based Carbon Disclosures Projects told the New York Times, “You’d better to learn to make money from climate change or you’ll be eaten for lunch.” Others want governments to set standards and rules so they can plan accordingly, for example, to figure out how to finance expensive carbon-saving technology for power plants or grow weather-resistant crops, invest in sea walls, or build stronger, hurricane-resistant oil platforms.

Image Sources: World Meteorological Organization; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: World Meteorological Organization; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2022

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