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Less Fossil Fuels Must Be Burned to Avoid Tipping Point

Less Fossil Fuels Must Be Burned to Avoid Tipping Point

Two new studies (German and British) found a limit to how much manmade carbon dioxide can be added to the atmosphere before warming exceeds a 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit increase. The world must put less than one trillion metric tons of carbon in the air during the first half of the 21st century to avoid the proverbial point of no return.

During the first nine years of this century the world emitted one-third of that amount, and if current rates continue, the world will emit one trillion metric tons in 20 years, said Malte Meinshausen, lead author of the German study.

About 234 billion metric tons of carbon were emitted through 2006, which means only 760 billion tons are left to emit, if the study’s levels are correct.

President Obama wants to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 80 percent. Bill Hare, co-author of German study, said that is a “good start but it’s not enough to limit warming.”

If other countries cut their per-person emission levels to match U.S. cuts, the U.S. would have to cut 90-95 percent to keep the world from exceeding one trillion ton level, Hare said.

Fewer amounts of fossil fuels must be burned to cut emissions. Three quarters of known reserves must be untouched the authors of the German study said. “Only a fast switch away from fossil fuels will give us a reasonable chance to avoid considerable warming,” said Mainshausen.

World carbon emissions have to start dropping by 2015 or cuts will be too “draconian,” according to Meinhausen.

Since the industrial revolution started, about 500 billion tons of carbon have been emitted, according to a University of Oxford study. The study says that one trillion metric tons of carbon will be a tipping point for climate change.

“Emitting carbon dioxide slower will not prevent dangerous climate change unless it involves phasing out carbon dioxide emissions altogether,” the study said. 

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34 comments

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8:41PM PDT on May 27, 2009

Even burning ethanol produces emissions. Anything that burns produces emissions. Don't fool yourself about ethanol.On top of that, it makes famine in poor countries even worse.
Solar power, wind power, walking more (and that would make you less fat too)are the only solutions.
In fact the recession might be a very good thing for the planet, otherwise you would all still be consuming as usual, making more gas guzzling cars as usual, riding them as usual, etc, etc. It was a kick in the proverbial backside. A wake up call.

4:33PM PDT on May 15, 2009

I agree with what has been said. If temperatures rise too much, it may not only be the case that we can't cool or heat our houses or use a tractor and manufacture fertilizer (chemical fertilizer is very fossil-fuel intensive). The crops we eat may not be able to adapt to higher temperatures. Same with fruit trees that grow in temperate zones. I don't know if even tropical fruit trees would be able to survive.

Although individual choices are important they are not enough for the changes that need to happen, imho. I wish there was enough political will around the world to take action and change the way we make and use energy so that carbon emissions can be cut.

1:26PM PDT on May 15, 2009

What more can I say than what these other people have said. Do we really need fossil fuels when ethanol can be readily available?! We need more gas stations to accept that natural gas now, so less fossil fuel is used.

1:19AM PDT on May 14, 2009

does anyone know what are the greatest polluters of this planet re greenhouse gases?is it coal, cars, volcanoes, planes. there are alternate energy sources eg sun, wind, earth's hot core. do we not use them for economic's sake? once the oceans rise 20 metres, corals and some countries disappear it will be too late jake. economics will become a byword

10:41PM PDT on May 13, 2009

The surest way to avoid more fossil fuel use is to produce power more efficiently. That's the elephant in the room that few people are talking about. We need to be using technologies like combined heat & power (CHP) and waste energy recovery -- which EPA and DOE studies say could slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, which is as much as if we pulled every passenger vehicle off the road.

Full disclosure: I'm associated with Recycled Energy Development, a company that does this work. So I'm biased. But the reason I'm involved is the staggering potential. We should be doing much more of this.

5:53PM PDT on May 13, 2009

. . . It is illogical that the blog display is such that the latest postings are at the top, reversing the sequence. When someone comments on a previous posting, the reader has to scroll down to look for it, having not read it yet. The latest postings should be at the end of the series!
. . . It is good that some are realizing that methane generated by increasing popularity of beef as a daily food both in traditional and emerging markets needs to be countered. Commercial advertising by the S.I.G.s of the dairy industry and beef industries, exaggerating and lying about their products' nutrition benefits or even dietary necessity, needs to be countered by realistic facts.
. . . Slowing the population growth has been successful in industrialized countries because the increased consumer demand has dictated longer working hours and both parents to work to pay for those purchases, hence less time for child rearing. In pre-industrial, largely agricultural countries, where disease meant a higher infant-mortality rate, having lots of children is the parents' only social security for old age. That is changing.
. . . For the "Apurim Plan" to solve inevitable ocean-rise from polar melt in the coming century (coastal flooding of cities and loss of farm areas, population emigration), do a search-engine for those words or go to the first posting at http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=108994328&blogId=476314276

3:07PM PDT on May 13, 2009

The meat industry releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than does the entire world transportation. If, in addition to cutting back on fossil fuel consumption, we would all go vegetarian or near-vegetarian, we absolutely could lick the problem. If that seems drastic, ponder how drastic it will be when someday soon we cannot cool our houses or our food in summer nor heat them in winter, when we're we're collectively starving because we don't dare fertilize by tractor anymore, and frantic rationing keeps more goods from reaching their market.

9:43AM PDT on May 13, 2009

Everyone over there is now into driving a car - they're getting ready to export their cars over here to us!
I say let's walk more! Let's all do our little part, and when we can, let's take part in the big things that'll really make for a change in the way that we use our energy. And for God's, and our, sake, STOP using fossil fuels! Or there won't be ANYTHING for our children's children - they won't even get born! Everyone, stop and think!

9:39AM PDT on May 13, 2009

Somebody needs to tell China! Don't know if it'd do any good though, cause they're where we were when we were at our very, very worst. And sometimes it seems that even if they knew, they wouldn't care. Remember Tienamin(sp?) Square?

6:49AM PDT on May 13, 2009

I agree that "overpopulation" is an issue, however... here in the US, with the world's least dense population, we continue to be the biggest consumers of carbon emitting cars, homes and businesses. This includes the very halls of SUNY-ESF, where we just, last weekend, attended our daughters graduation.
Cari

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