Consequences of Greenhouse Gas Buildup

Average Global Temperature at Earth's Surface, 1880-2007 Average global temperature increased by 0.74 degrees Celsius between 1906 and 2005. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts an additional rise of 1.8-4.0 degrees Celsius this century, depending on how much and how soon greenhouse gas emissions are curbed.8 Climate Change Reference Guide and Glossary The 10 Warmest Years on Record, 1880-2007 The 10 Warmest Years on Record, 1880-2007 Scientists believe that several...

Measuring Climate Change

Carbon flows among land, sea, and the atmosphere. But human activities since the mid-eighteenth century have changed carbon flows in ways that have lasting implications for the climate. This graphic depicts changes to global carbon flows in the 1990s relative to the preindustrial state.3 Fossil fuel burning and cement production 6.4 GtC Net increase to the atmosphere 3.2 GtC Annual change in billions of tons of carbon (GtC) Changes to global temperature caused by climate change are usually...

Share of Global Emissions in Carbon Dioxide Equivalent

Climate Change Reference Guide and Glossary Greenhouse gases come from a broad range of human activities, including energy use, changes in land use (such as deforestation), and agriculture.2 Sample Emissiongenerating Activities Emissions by Sector, in Carbon Dioxide Equivalent, 2004 Climate Change Reference Guide and Glossary

Greenhouse

Hydrofluoro-carbons (HFCs) F gases Perfluoro-carbons Sulfur Hexa-fluoride (SF6) Fossil fuel combustion, land clearing for agriculture Livestock production, extraction of fossil fuels, rice cultivation, biomass burning, landfills, sewage Industrial processes, fertilizer use, land clearing Leakage from refrigerators, aerosols, air conditioners Aluminum production, semiconductor industry Electrical insulation, magnesium smelting

Equity and the End of Emissions

Bringing greenhouse gas emissions down to a fraction of current levels will take an ongoing worldwide effort that engages all nations and touches all lives. We can fail to slash emissions, or fail even to try. We can try risky geoengineering schemes or simply hope to brave the heat and storms to come. Or we can adopt a positive attitude about preventing future emissions and adapting collectively to past ones, and we can get to work. We live in exciting times and can...

State of Play

Seemingly undaunted by these challenges, today's climate negotiators are building on the mixed outcomes of the Kyoto Protocol to craft a strategy for moving forward. Despite the absence of the United States, parties to the protocol continue to strengthen its provisions and have committed to improving and expanding the carbon trading, Clean Development Mechanism, and other emissions-reducing tools to which it gave birth. The CDM and its governing board, for example, already are moving to shift...

Lessons Learned Time Lost

The upward trends in greenhouse gas emissions over the last two decades trace tracks of lost time. More than two decades have passed since prominent climate scientists first began calling news media and public attention to the growing urgency of the problem. While the signature ofhuman-induced warming is now clearer than it was then, the basic science and the riskiness of stuffing ever more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere has never been in doubt among the world's leading scientists. In...

Who Will Emit

Given the challenges, it is not surprising that the current negotiating process on climate change is forbidding in its complexity and far from any certainty of success. Even on financial issues that many governments take more seriously than climate change, negotiations sometimes founder. In July 2007 a round of world trade talks that had continued for seven years suddenly collapsed in unbridgeable disagreement, with no prospect they would start up again anytime soon.10 But the round of...

Building Rural Livelihoods That Are More Resilient

As climate change has an impact on ecosystems, the livelihoods and well-being of those reliant on the functioning of those systems is clearly threatened. This vulnerability is particularly worrying because 75 percent of the 1.2 billion people who survive on less than 1 per day live and work in rural areas of developing countries. They lack the institutional and financial capacity to cope with the impacts of climate change, and they already suffer problems associated with subsistence production,...

Vulnerability Adaptation and Resilience

Vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience are all deceptively simple concepts with widely varying meanings. Vulnerability is the basic condition that makes adaptation and resilience necessary. In reference to climate change, it is a measure of the degree to which a human or natural system is unable to cope with adverse effects, including changing variability and extremes. It can be seen as an outcome of the seriousness of the stress and the ability of a system to respond to it. Adaptation is a...

Scaling Up Renewables

Some analysts conclude that only very large facilities such as nuclear power, large-scale hydro, or large coal plants with carbon capture and storage can meet the world's rapidly growing energy needs. Renewable energy, it is argued, is too small-scale and too dispersed to make more than a modest contribution. But experiences with renewables in Germany and elsewhere prove otherwise, as described in the next section. Furthermore, large projects cannot produce any power until construction is...

Table Alternatives to Fossil Fuels for Heating and Cooling

Combined heat and power (cogeneration) Passive solar heating Passive cooling Uses a heat source (such as the sun or waste heat from combined heat and power (CHP)) to cool air through an evaporative process small to large-scale Heat derived from the combustion of biomass, such as wood or pellets residential to large-scale Use of a power plant to produce both heat and electricity residential to large-scale Uses optical concentrators to focus the sun to provide higher-temperature heat and steam...

Creating Highcarbon Cropping Systems

Plants harness the energy of the sun and accumulate carbon from the atmosphere to produce biomass on which the rest of the biota depend. The great innovation of agriculture 10,000 years ago was to manage the photosynthesis of plants and ecosystems so as to dependably increase yields. With 5 billion hectares of Earth's surface used for agriculture 69 percent under pasture and 28 percent in crops in 2002, and with half a billion more hectares expected by 2020, agricultural production systems and...

Shifting Values in Response to Climate Change

Tamsen Butler was living the busy life of a mother of two, a college student, and a freelance writer when her 15-month-old son could no longer breathe properly. She carried him into the ambulance, clutching my son in one arm while I used my other arm to balance my laptop bag. After a couple of nights in a Nebraska hospital tending to her son and staying up late trying to meet writing deadlines, she had an epiphany My son was in the hospital and I was a fool. Rather than working while her son...

Michael Renner Sean Sweeney and Jill Kubit

As climate action grows urgent, some observers warn that economies will suffer as a result. But economic prosperity and employment depend in fundamental ways on a stable climate and healthy ecosystems. Without timely action, many jobs could be lost due to resource depletion, biodiversity loss, the impacts of increasing natural disasters, and other disruptions. Meanwhile, employment that actually contributes to protecting the environment and reducing humanity's carbon footprint offers people a...

Ken Caldeira

Clark Air Force Base After Eruption

In June 1991, Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted explosively the biggest eruption of the twentieth century. The volcano created a column of ash and debris extending upward 40 kilometers about 25 miles . The eruption ejected around 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, where it oxidized to form sulfate dust particles. The stratosphere is the part of the atmosphere that is higher than where jets normally fly.1 As a result, about 2 percent of the sunlight passing down...

Robert K Kaufmann

There is near-universal agreement among scientists and economists that climate is changing in ways that reduce economic well-being due in part to emissions of carbon dioxide CO2 during the combustion of fossil fuels. The price of these fuels does not reflect these effects, and this omission is a classic example of what economists call an externality. By definition, externalities are not corrected by the market government intervention is required.1 Policymakers are discussing two forms of...

Ambika Chawla

In Operation Climate Change, members of a Nigerian indigenous peoples' rights movement attempt to shut down oil flow stations in the Niger Delta. Ecuadorian environmental activists risk their lives to protest construction of an oil pipeline through the Amazonian forest that is home to the native Quichua, Shuar, and Achuar people. More than 200 farmers from 20 countries march in Bali, Indonesia, during a meeting on the U.N. climate convention to demand that food sovereignty be addressed by...

Making Agriculture and Land Use Climatefriendly and Climateresilient

An agricultural landscape should simultaneously provide food and fiber, meet the needs ofnature and biodiversity, and support viable livelihoods for people who live there. In terms of climate change, landscape and farming systems should actively absorb and store carbon in vegetation and soils, reduce emissions of methane from rice production, livestock, and burning, and reduce nitrous oxide emissions from inorganic fertilizers. At the same time, it is important to increase the resilience of...

Dennis Clare

Black carbon, a component of soot, is a potent climate-forcing aerosol and may be the second-leading cause of global warming after carbon dioxide CO2 . Unlike CO2, however, black carbon remains in the atmosphere for only a few days or weeks. Therefore reducing these emissions will have an almost immediate climate mitigation impact. While substantial reductions of greenhouse gas emissions should remain the anchor of overall climate stabilization efforts, dealing with black carbon may be the...