Global CO2 Emissions Are Still On The Rise!
Last week, Ireland became just the second country to declare a climate emergency, following in the footsteps of the United Kingdom. This, undoubtedly, has been in response to the demand from hundreds of thousands of people for the UK government to dedicate more resources to, and increase action on, climate change. The past year has seen a major boost in awareness of the frightening dangers our planet faces, helped by ‘The David Attenborough Effect’, various documentaries, constant news stories and the Extinction Rebellion protests in London. However, awareness is just the first step – businesses and individuals must act collectively to reduce Co2 output.
What does CO2 do to the environment?
Greenhouse Gases – Co2 is one of several greenhouse gases, others include Methane, Nitrous Oxide and Water Vapour. These gases help keep the Earth warm by absorbing energy from the sun and directing it back at the surface. Unfortunately, an oversupply of Co2 creates a major issue – with too much heat being trapped and redirected towards the Earth’s surface. This can and is leading to unprecedented melting of polar ice caps, which in turn leads to rising ocean levels, flooding, loss of habitat and declining numbers of several endangered species.
Vegetation – Although plants need Co2 to complete the process of photosynthesis and for energy, it has been suggested that too much Co2 can actually be damaging to plants and grasslands. A study recently published in the Global Change Biology journal details how plants in a number of different ecosystems appear to actually suffer from too much atmospheric carbon. A worrying thought when we rely on plants to provide the atmosphere with oxygen.
Life – All animals need Co2 to survive. However, as mentioned, rising Co2 level in the atmosphere can have catastrophic effects on animal and human life. Rising sea levels which lead to flooding can displace humans and animals. Melting ice caps mean species such as Polar Bears struggle to eat and live, whilst global warming can lead to severe drought and lack of drinking water – these are but a few examples of what could happen if we do not severely reduce our Co2 emissions.
Who are the main culprits?
- China – 12,000 Metric Tonnes (MT)
- United States – 12,000 MT
- India – 2,500 MT
- Russia – 1,750 MT
- Germany – 850 MT
- Brazil – 500 MT
- Australia – 400 MT
- France – 325 MT
- United Kingdom – 300 MT
- Sweden – 55 MT
The Climate Change Performance Index report (CCPI) from 2019 places the UK and India 8th and 11th out of 60 leading nations. So, despite India being one of the leading Co2 emitters, the level of renewable energy used makes them one of the leading nations in the CCPI’s report.
Unsurprisingly, following their withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the US is ranked 59/60 by the CCPI with Co2 emissions high and rising, very little renewable energy being used and an incredibly poor climate policy from the current government.
Last month, Vox News put together a fascinating animation that allows us to see the countries with the largest cumulative Co2 emissions since 1750. Despite the UK leading this for many years, it’s clear to see that it is the US that should bear a high level of responsibility for our planet’s climate issues. Follow this link to see the animation.
What more can we do?
There are several ways of removing Co2 from the atmosphere. First, forests absorb a huge amount of Co2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Ensuring that we are expanding forest areas and looking after current forests will help considerably. Farmland is another area that can significantly absorb Co2. Carbon is stored in soil and, if farmers are willing to plant cover crops or trees on otherwise bare fields, more Co2 will be absorbed.
There are some trials going on of more creative ways of removing Co2 from the atmosphere. The US navy has a protype ‘Seawater Capture’ device. This is a device that effectively removes Co2 from seawater. By reducing Co2 concentration in the ocean, the water then draws in more from the air to regain balance.
In Iceland, some of the more forward-thinking scientists have developed a method in which Co2 is turned into fizzy water and then injected into rocks thousands of feet underground. When the water hits the rock, it fills its cavities and begins solidifying, thanks to the chemical reaction when CO2 interacts with calcium, magnesium, and iron—all present in the basalt rocks of Iceland.
Natural gas, oil and coal
It is also thought that in China oil use is on the rise, again, this is down to sheer demand for energy.
Coal is a little more complicated. Despite coal consumption being on the decline in most major economies since 2013, this could soon be eclipsed by increased use of coal in other countries who currently lack energy access and are trying to make energy supplies more reliable. According to the World Resources Institute, coal consumption in India rose by 5% annually in recent years and is now greater than that of the EU and US combined.
Emissions highly likely to rise in 2019/2020
As previously discussed, in the battle against Co2 emissions, it is essential that the climate policies in place are progressive enough to meet global targets. But, with the latest climate science suggesting that emissions should peak by 2020 in order to avoid some of the most severe effects of climate change – it seems that certain major nations are letting us down.