Some Key Points
- Carbon Dioxide Emissions derived from human activity on the planet closely follow the use of fossil fuels.
- Observation of the historic data implies that the planet can reabsorb up to 18Gt of our CO2 emissions annually.
- We are emitting about 35Gt a year, the excess is adding about 24ppm CO2 to our atmosphere each decade and increasing temperature by about 0.6oC each decade.
- Much more CO2 is emitted naturally, but it is important to understand that our emissions tip the balence and that they cannot be absorbed rapidly enough by the planet and so accumulate in the atmosphere.
- Read more on Atmospheric CO2 Concentration
The carbon emissions here reflect only those used in the power industry (power and heat generation plants), other industrial combustion (combustion for industrial manufacturing and fuel), non-combustion (industrial process emissions & agriculture & waste), buildings (non-industrial stationary combustion) and transport (road & rail & ship & aviation).
Figure 2.1 Shows the Carbon Dioxide emissions from these activities, and Figure 2.2 shows the CO2e (the carbon dioxide equivalent effect) of the two other main Greenhouse gasses Methane and Nitrous Oxide, They are substantial components but are not on the scale of CO2 and are not rising as rapidly.
The correlation between global temperature deviation and the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere is inescapable, and the correlation between man made emissions of CO2 and atmospheric CO2 is equally apparent.
Currently the planet is having to absorb more CO2 than it should on the land and in the oceans with some deleterious consequences (e.g. Ocean acidifications). Looking at the data for 1970, global temperature deviation is 0oC, human activity CO2 emissions are 15.8Gt, atmospheric CO2 levels are 325ppm and somewhere between 325ppm and 350ppm, the temperature slowly increases.
Emissions from fossil sources could be reduced if for example carbon capture technology were added to our power stations or major industrial complexes, but this costs money.
If the problem was at a national level, national taxation could be used as a tool to discourage emissions and to look for alternatives and carbon capture, but international agreement is tricky since energy costs directly relate to the industrial competitiveness of a nation. International agreement is essential to tackle the issues of CO2 emissions.
Read more on Atmospheric CO2 Concentration