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.

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.

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?

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.

Plastic bags and plastic bottles - CO2 emissions during their lifetime

A number of people have asked about the implications of using plastic bags on the personal carbon footprint as well as on the environment in general. There are some comparisons between paper bags and plastic bags available which clearly show that it all depends on how many times these plastic or paper bags are being used. 

Littering is probably the severest problem related to plastic bags. Nevertheless let's now have a look at the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for the production and incineration of plastic bags.

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.

 

 

Global warming - it's about you

Global warming causes: CO2 concentration

Global warming is a typical global phenomena, where the causer of the emission does not automatically suffer from it himself. Cause and effect are separated both in time as well as with regard to geography.

In the past, there was a more or less direct relation between the energy consumption (mainly fossil fuels) and the welfare of a country.

This makes it very difficult to reach consensus between the countries about the required steps to solve the problem. The Kyoto protocol shows that the following of the agreement will be doubtful at best if no automatic sanctions take into effect for countries violating it.

Given the severe consequences of global warming, the above sounds quite hopeless for our future. Read on to see how we all are involved in this and how we can benefit from taking our personal responsibility.

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!

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".

Prediction of energy consumption world-wide

Prediction of the world-wide energy consumtion by fuel type

According to the American Energy Information Administration (EIA) and to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world-wide energy consumption will on average continue to increase by 2% per year.

A yearly increase by 2% leads to a doubling of the energy consumption every 35 years. This means the world-wide energy consumption is predicted to be twice as high in the year 2040 compared to today (2007).

By far the highest increase in world-wide energy consumption is predicted to be from all three fossil fuels: oil, coal and natural gas (see graph)! The renewable energies are predicted to grow as well, but much less than fossil energies. Nuclear energy is predicted to grow relatively moderate.

We have a serious problem

It is only possible to mitigate global warming if the world-wide consumption of fossil fuels can be drastically reduced in the next 10 to 15 years. There is simply no room for a scenario as it is predicted by the International Energy Agency IEA.

It is also obvious that no combination of alternative technologies can replace the current usage of fossil fuels. There is simply not enough non-fossil fuel available for this. In order to mitigate global warming, we have to use the available energy much more efficiently. But this won't be enough either: We will have to change our behaviour to reduce our personal energy consumption. We must change our current live style and seriously strive for a sustainable living .

Read on for details and background...

 

Investments in sustainable energies

Invest in renewable energies - not in fossile «Aiding oil, harming the climate» is a new report from the organisation "Oil Change International", which shows dramatically that the major investments still go into the oil, gas and coal sector instead of renewable energies. For more than 25 years, wealthy countries have been using aid and other foreign assistance to subsidize the expansion of the international oil industry, a practice known as “Oil Aid”. It is impossible to actively subsidize the expansion of the oil industry and effectively fight global warming at the same time.

Eat less meat: CO2 emission of our food

The carbon dioxide emissions (carbon footprint) caused by our personal behavior is driven to a large extent by the type and quality of our nourishment. The amount of greenhouse gases caused by the production of food is different from one food type to the other (see table below). Worst is meat and in particular beef.

A environmental friendly and climate change friendly nourishment is characterised as follows:   

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.

The main cause of global warming

One of the main causes of global warming is our thoughtless treatment of NatureIt took more than 20 years to broadly accept that mankind is causing global warming with the emission of greenhouse gases. The drastic increase in the emission of CO2 (carbon dioxide) within the last 30 years caused by burning fossil fuels has been identified as the major reason for the change of temperature in the atmosphere.

More than 80% of the world-wide energy demand is currently supplied by the fossil fuels coal, oil or gas. It will be impossible to find alternative sources, which could replace fossil fuels in the short or medium term. The energy demand is simply too high.

  • Why have warnings about climate change been ignored for more than 20 years?
  • Why were ever more scientific evidence demanded to find the coherence of man-made CO2 emissions as cause of global warming? Wouldn't common sense have been reason enough to act?

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.

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.

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.

 

Cause and effect for global warming

Almost 100% of the observed temperature increase over the last 50 years has been due to the increase in the atmosphere of greenhouse gas concentrations like water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and ozone. Greenhouse gases are those gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect (see below). The largest contributing source of greenhouse gas is the burning of fossil fuels leading to the emission of carbon dioxide.

Read on and see graphs about the greenhouse effect and global warming caused by the greenhouse effect.

 

 

Cumulative CO2 emissions by country

The following graph shows the cumulative CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions by country for the years 1900 until 2002. This is the sum of all CO2 emissions in the years 1900 until 2002 for each developed country. Data source was the World Resources Institute (WRI).

On the page link here, you can find the CO2 emissions by country and/or per capita by country .

It does make sense to look at the sum of all CO2 emissions because the lifetime of the greenhouse gases like CO2 in the atmosphere is between 50 and 200 years. The current global warming is an effect of all greenhouse gases put in the atmosphere during the last 100 years, global warming is not just caused by the greenhouse gases emitted this year or last year! This is also one of the reasons why immediate action is required to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, because the effects of the greenhouse gases will last for about 100 years.

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.

What is thermosolar power or concentrating solar power (CSP)?

What is thermosolar power, or "desert energy"? Thermosolar energy means generating electricity from the heat of the sun, and not, as photovoltaic panels do, from sunlight. Since a large quantity of solar heat is required, evidently this must be done in the desert. A short introduction in this promising technology to produce electricity from a renewable source: