Cape Farewell

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Climate Change - The Implications

The solution to Climate Change is simple; Reduce CO2 levels to a sustainable and manageable level. We need to reduce current carbon dioxide emissions by about 60% globally to prevent the CO2 levels rising and further. This however is not an easy task, CO2 'production' is a product of all our human activity worldwide, we are committed and reliant on a carbon burning economy to maintain our current way of life, economy and human 'progress'.

The Kyoto accord is the first global legislation that attempts to effect and stabilise global CO2 emissions, Change is a global responsibility and there are many ways in which we can act individually, industrially, economically and governmentally to achieve a common objective of sustainable existence in balance with the planet without threat to both our way of life and that of the Earth as we know it.

The chart in Figure 5 shows the global distribution of CO2 emissions in terms of three major indices: emissions per capita [Height of each block]; and total emissions (product of population and emissions per capita = area of block). Per capita emissions in the industrial countries are currently as much as ten times the average in developing countries, particularly Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
Source: The Carbon Trust with data from the USA Energy Information Administration

In context...

  • One long distant international air flight produces nearly one ton of CO2 per passenger
  • Each person in the UK on average produces 9800 tons of CO2 per year
  • Each person in the USA on average produces 18000 tons of CO2 per year
  • One average car travelling 10000 miles per year produces 3 tons of CO2

Were society to make reducing carbon dioxide emissions a priority - as I think it should to reduce the risks of environmental havoc in the future - we need to pursue several strategies at once. We would need to concentrate on using energy more efficiently and on substituting noncarbon renewable or nuclear energy sources for fossil fuel (coal, oil and natural gas - the primary sources of manmade atmospheric carbon dioxide). And we would need to employ a method that is receiving increasing attention: capturing carbon dioxide and storing, or sequestrating it underground rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. Nothing says that CO2 must be emitted into the air. The atmosphere has been our prime waste repository, because discharging exhaust up through smokestacks, tail pipes and chimneys is the simplest and least [immediately] costly think to do. The good news is that the technology for capture already exists and that the obstacles hindering implication seem to be surmountable.

A new large (1000 mega watt generating) coal fired power station produces six million tons of CO2 annually. The world's total output (roughly equivalent to the production of 1000 large planets - 6,000,000,000 tons of CO2 per year) could double over the next few decades as the USA, China, India and many other countries construct new power- generating stations. The strategy that combines the capture of carbon dioxide emissions from coal power plants and their subsequent injection into geologic formations for long term storage could contribute significantly to slowing the rise of the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Fortunately, opportunities for affordable storage and capture efforts are plentiful. The owner of a new coal power plant would face a 50% rise in the cost of power the coal plants put on the grid, about 2 cents per kilowatt-hour on top of a base cost of around 4 cents per kWh. The home owner or consumer buying only coal-based electricity, who now pays an average of about 10 cents per kWh, would experience one-fifth higher electricity costs.
Scientific America, July 2005 'The Carbon Trap' Robert H Socolow

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Dr Tom Wakeford 2005 / 78°N 11.5°E

Tom Wakeford "Today you will have almost certainly inhaled an atom of carbon exhaled by Julius Caesar, when he uttered the question 'Et tu Brute?' to his treacherous aide. Now multiply your breathing by the respiration of every plant, fungus, bacteria, human being and other animals. You do not need a calculator to conclude that organisms have, by their very existence, exerted a powerful influence over the global climate..." Read the full blog post by Tom Wakeford, biologist and action reserarcher, from the 2005 expedition ›


Figure 1. Illustration of the greenhouse effect
Figure 2. Illustration of temperature graph
Figure 3. Illustration of CO2 levels over the last 60,000 years
Figure 4. Illustration. Global temperature changes since 1860
Figure 5. CO2 emissions in different regions in 2000, per Capita and population
Cape Farewell science crew launching Arty Bob, the ARGO float, during the 2007 Art/Science Expedition
Satellite image showing sea surface temperature (SST). National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
Illustration showing sea surface temperature. National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
The science crew taking measurements during the 2007 Art/Science Expedition
The science crew taking measurements during the 2007 Art/Science Expedition
Amy Balkin in conversation with Simon Boxall during the 2007 Art/Science Expedition
Figure 1. Illustration of the greenhouse effect

Figure 1. Illustration of the greenhouse effect