Causes and effects of global warming (random order)

Below is a short summary for all articles related to climate change. Click on a title in the list to read the full article. To re-sort the list click on a tab above. If you can't find what you are looking for, try Search in the main menu above.

What is a carbon footprint - definition

A carbon footprint is defined as:

The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Offline Carbon footprint calculator

The attached Excel sheet can be used to calculate both CO2 emissions as well as primary energy requirements for the following activities:

  • Heating with oil, gas, coal, wood, solar energy or heat pumps
  • Electricity consumption. The actual mix of power generation (coal, oil, natural gas, wood, nuclear energy, hydro energy, solar energy, wind, geothermal or waste) is taken into consideration.
  • Travelling by car for diesel and petrol fuelled cars. Either by actual fuel consumption or by distance and average fuel consumption.
  • Travelling by bus (kilometres or miles)
  • Travelling by train (kilometres or miles)

CO2 - the major cause of global warming

Increase of world temperature
Global warming is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases . 72% of the totally emitted greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide (CO2), 18% Methane and 9% Nitrous oxide (NOx). Carbon dioxide emissions therefore are the most important cause of global warming.
Recent investigations have shown that inconceivable catastrophic changes in the environment will take place if the global temperatures increase by more than 2° C (3.6° F). A warming of 2° C (3.6° F) corresponds to a carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration of about 450 ppm (parts per million) in the atmosphere.

Carbon footprint howto

Before you can start calculating your personal carbon footprint, you must create a user account on http://timeforchange.org. Don't worry, your email address won't be given away or misused.

CO2 emission of electricity from nuclear power stations

How much CO2 is produced by atomic energy?

One of the few pros of nuclear power is the relatively low emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the major causes of global warming. For this reason, it has been proposed as "the" method to mitigate the effects of climate change. However a recent life cycle analysis showed that nuclear power produces 4 to 10 times higher CO2 emissions per kWh electricity than renewable energies.

Global carbon cycle and climate change

Life processes are fuelled by carbon compounds which are oxidized to CO2 (carbon dioxide), the latter is exhaled by all animals and plants. Conversely, CO2 is assimilated by plants during photosynthesis to build new carbon compounds. See also this comment about photosynthesis and global warming.

Pros and cons of nuclear power

Pros and cons of nuclear power plants

As a result of the current discussion how further global warming could be prevented or at least mitigated, the revival of nuclear power seems to be in everybody's - or at least in many politician's - mind. It it interesting to see that in many suggestions to mitigate global warming, the focus is put on the advantages of nuclear power generation, its disadvantages are rarely mentioned.

Below is a short summary of arguments for and against nuclear power plants.

 

 

About the cost advantage of nuclear energy

Electricity from nuclear energy is considered to be economical and very cost effective, in particular compared to electricity from renewable energy sources like wind, water, sun, biomass or geothermal energy.

There are two main reasons for the relative low cost of nuclear power:

  • Research and development for nuclear applications has been financed by the government, therefore these costs don't get transferred to the cost of electricity produced from nuclear power. However the cost of R&D for renewable energy sources is mostly financed privately and therefore added to the production cost. It is therefore included in the cost of renewable electricity.
  • Nuclear power plants are underinsured for legal liability. The risk for nuclear catastrophes is not carried by the owner of the nuclear power plant, it is carried by the whole nation. Electricity from nuclear power would cost at least twice as much than today if operator companies of nuclear power plants were to insure the plants for the real risks.

 

Stopping global warming is risk management

The issue with stopping or reducing global warming is about risk and managing risk: Science still does not know the exact mechanism by which smoking and its associated chemicals causes cancer. What we do know is that smoking is the biggest risk factor in developing lung cancer. The more you smoke, the more your risk of getting lung cancer. Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer, and not everyone who gets lung cancer has smoked.

CO2 emissions by country

Carbon dioxide emissions per capita in the year 2002

The graph shows the total CO2 emission in million tons by country for the year 2002. Data source was the World Resources Institute (WRI). The CO2 emissions for the year 2006 are about 12 to 15% higher than the figures shown here.

The second chart shows the CO2 emissions by capita and country for the year 2002. Data source was again the World Resources Institute (WRI). Some remarks to these values:

  • The world-wide average is 4 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person per year
  • The average of all industrialised nations is about 11 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person per year
  • In the medium and long term, a world-wide average emission of maximum 2 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person per year must be targeted. This amount is nowadays considered to be the maximum allowed quantity for a sustainable living on earth.
  • The International Energy Institute (IEA) predicts a further increase of the world-wide CO2 emissions by 55% within the next 25 years if no immediate actions to stop global warming are put in place. However, even in their alternative scenario where "... vigorous new policy measures already being contemplated.." are introduced, IEA predicts a growth of the CO2 emissions by 28% compared to 2004!

Is nuclear power a global warming solution?

The contribution of nuclear energy to reduce the cause of global warming is only 10%

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts a strong increase of the carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2030. Additionally, IEA investigated to which extent the above mentioned emissions of CO2 could be prevented if politics applied rigorous measures.

From all measures investigated, nuclear energy was found to have the least effect (only 10%). Almost 80% of the desired effects are due to increasing the energy efficiency.

How to mitigate the cause of global warming

This result is surprising, in particular if you think about how nuclear power is praised as solution to global warming by politicians like George W. Bush and Tony Blair. It seems like they would (again) head into the wrong direction.

Instead of talking about measures to increase the energy efficiency, which accounts for 80% of the effects, some politicians propagandize building nuclear power plants, which according to IEA can only account for 10% of the desired effects. Here the focus is clearly on the wrong subject!

 

The benefits of modesty

Does it do any good for Africans suffering from drought if I reduce my personal water consumption? Why should I reduce the CO2 emissions and save energy? Does it reduce starvation anywhere in the world if I eat less?

Living in moderation is «out» because it seems to be full of deprivations and limitations. Read here why it is on the contrary rather full of opportunities for the personal development. It is an indispensable precondition to get in perpetual harmony, joy and (self-)confidence.

Renewable energy going strong for Germany

German manufacturers of wind farms were able to consolidate their dominant position on the international market in 2005, says the German Energy Agency (DENA) in a press release on its renewable energy initiatives. With an increase of 55% in exports, reaching 2.87 billion Euro, they acquired 38% of the global market. According to market indicators the 2005 export quota has increased to reach 71%. The growing use of renewable energy sources in North America and Asia helped the German renewable energy industry to take the lead in almost all technology sectors.

Get a feeling how mitigation of global warming can be affected

 

Run your own simulations of global warming with the attached spreadsheets!

Is prevention of global warming possible? Or is only mitigation of global warming possible? How fast do changes in the carbon dioxide emissions affect the average temperature increase? What are the effects of some proposed global warming solutions?

Ocean acidification - another effect of global warming

Fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes release over six billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year. The consequences of these greenhouse gas emissions are often discussed in terms of rising global temperatures, but global warming is not the only threat from increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2). Ocean acidification, which occurs when CO2 in the atmosphere reacts with water to create carbonic acid, has already increased ocean acidity by 30 percent. Although the chemistry of this effect is well understood and not much debated, the full consequences of ocean acidification for marine ecosystems and human well-being are only beginning to be revealed.

Cause and effects of global warming - IPCC report

IPCC Fourth Assessment Report "Climate Change 2007" about the cause and effects of global warming. This is the report many politicians are currently referring to and calling (at last!) for actions. A summary of the report can be found on the website of IPCC, see here .

The report does not really reveal new information about the causes and effects of global warming. This report however confirms that mankind through the emission of greenhouse gases (in particular carbon dioxide, CO2) is the cause of global warming. Mitigation of global warming will only be possible with a drastic reduction of the world-wide emission of carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) are burned.

The important thing about this report is the fact that its findings and conclusions have been accepted by hundreds of climate experts and governments world-wide. There is no doubt any more that urgent action is needed, nobody can ignore climate change any more and call global warming "an illusion of greens".

Nuclear power phase-out pros and cons

Nuclear phase-out means the discontinuation of usage of nuclear power for electrical energy production. Usually because of concerns about nuclear energy, existing plants are either shut down or not renewed after being retired.

Many European countries have decided to phase-out nuclear power, for details see further below. Under the umbrella of global warming, lobbying organizations of the atomic industry are putting high pressure on several governments to postpone the planned shut down of nuclear power stations or even to cancel the phase-out altogether. Their main argument is the relatively low CO2 emission of nuclear power compared to fossil fuels coal, oil and natural gas. However nuclear energy should rather be compared to sustainable energies and not to fossils.

The general pros and cons of nuclear power are discussed on a separate page. Here we concentrate on the pros and cons of nuclear phase-out.

Growing world population

One of the major problems for our future is the ever growing number of people living on Earth. We are referring to this in several articles on this site. Below you can find first a graph about the population by geographical area and by year, starting in 1950 until the year 2050.

The second graph shows the population density by geographical area by year, i.e. the number of people living per square kilometre. Further down, we provide lists of the current and predicted population by country. Click on one of the links below to jump directly to a list or graph:

Global warming solutions – sensible energy consumption

Global warming solutions: Energy mix 2003In search for global warming solutions, people are suddenly asking for alternative energies. However, more than 80% of our energy is currently taken from the fossil sources oil, gas or coal. It is absolutely impossible to supply this much of energy from alternative sources within the next 10 to 20 years.

Therefore, we should first ask how much energy is really required to have  a good quality of life, instead of taking our current energy consumption for granted or even indispensable. In a second step, we can then look for potential energy sources to fulfil this need.