Greenhouse Gases Higher Than Worst Case Scenario

public domain picture of carbon emissions

By Associated Press

he global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide has jumped by a record amount, according to the US department of energy, a sign of how feeble the world’s efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.

The figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.

“The more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing,” said John Reilly, the co-director of MIT‘s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

The world pumped about 564m more tons (512m metric tons) of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009, an increase of 6%. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries, China, the US and India, the world’s top producers of greenhouse gases.

It is a “monster” increase that is unheard of, said Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate department of energy figures in the past.

Extra pollution in China and the US account for more than half the increase in emissions last year, Marland said.

“It’s a big jump,” said Tom Boden, the director of the energy department’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Lab. “From an emissions standpoint, the global financial crisis seems to be over.”

Boden said that in 2010 people were travelling, and manufacturing was back up worldwide, spurring the use of fossil fuels, the chief contributor of man-made climate change.

India and China are huge users of coal. Burning coal is the biggest carbon source worldwide and emissions from that jumped nearly 8% in 2010.

“The good news is that these economies are growing rapidly so everyone ought to be for that, right?” Reilly said. “Broader economic improvements in poor countries has been bringing living improvements to people. Doing it with increasing reliance on coal is imperiling the world.”

In 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its last large report on global warming, it used different scenarios for carbon dioxide pollution and said the rate of warming would be based on the rate of pollution. Boden said the latest figures put global emissions higher than the worst case projections from the climate panel. Those forecast global temperatures rising between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4-6.4 Celsius) by the end of the century with the best estimate at 7.5 degrees (4 Celsius).

Even though global warming sceptics have criticised the climate change panel as being too alarmist, scientists have generally found their predictions too conservative, Reilly said. He said his university worked on emissions scenarios, their likelihood, and what would happen. The IPCC’s worst case scenario was only about in the middle of what MIT calculated are likely scenarios.

Chris Field of Stanford University, head of one of the IPCC’s working groups, said the panel’s emissions scenarios are intended to be more accurate in the long term and are less so in earlier years. He said the question now among scientists is whether the future is the panel’s worst case scenario “or something more extreme”.

“Really dismaying,” Granger Morgan, head of the engineering and public policy department at Carnegie Mellon University, said of the new figures. “We are building up a horrible legacy for our children and grandchildren.”

But Reilly and University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver found something good in recent emissions figures. The developed countries that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas limiting treaty have reduced their emissions overall since then and have achieved their goals of cutting emissions to about 8% below 1990 levels. The US did not ratify the agreement.

In 1990, developed countries produced about 60% of the world’s greenhouse gases, now it’s probably less than 50%, Reilly said.

“We really need to get the developing world because if we don’t, the problem is going to be running away from us,” Weaver said. “And the problem is pretty close from running away from us.”

Emphasis Mine


Why is the Mississippi River flooding?

SUSAN WEBB, PeoplesWorld

“The right-wing National Review is rushing to instruct us that global warming has nothing to do with the record-breaking Mississippi River flood that is rolling toward New Orleans.

The funny thing is, it’s all based on quotes from experts who say a key cause of the flooding is over-development – in other words, the very “free market” enterpreneurship so beloved by the conservative crowd at the National Review.

So which is it? In fact, experts seem to agree, it’s not an either-or situation.

First, this fact: The Mississippi River crested at 47.79 feet on Tuesday (May 10) at Memphis, the second-highest level on record, reports Andrew Freedman, a climate policy analyst with ClimateCentral. The water spilled through Memphis and surrounding areas, leaving hundreds homeless. As it continues south, it is drowning communities and farmland in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Freedman says two factors led to the flood. First is record rainfall in the Mississippi watershed: “the heavy rain that fell during April in the Ohio Valley, where six states – Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia – recorded their wettest April since instrument records began 117 years ago. Nine states recorded their wettest February through April period on record, according to a report released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).” On top of that, he says, snowmelt added more water to the river.

Climate change cannot be blamed as the direct cause of the flooding, says Freedman. “But,” he writes, “scientists have detected large-scale trends indicating that extreme precipitation events are becoming more likely as temperatures warm in response to increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the air.”

“This means that heavy rainfall events are more frequent than they used to be, in part because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture that can be wrung out by storm systems,” he explains.

Greenhouse gases are things like carbon dioxide and methane, which seal in heat close to the earth’s surface, leading to global warming. The increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, scientists overwhelmingly agree, is primarily due to industrial and automobile emissions.

Freeman writes, “Scientists are working to detect the ‘fingerprint’ of climate change in specific extreme weather events, and their methods are still in their infancy. It will take many months for studies to be completed on whether climate change may have made April’s heavy rains more likely.” But several recent studies show a link between climate change and extreme rainfall.

So, global warming may well have something to do with the Mississippi flood. But it’s not the only factor.

The National Review attempt at global-warming debunking consists of a repost of an ABC News report headlined “Mississippi Rising: Critics Say High Water Result of Man Not Mother Nature.” In fact the experts interviewed by ABC suggest a variety of factors are involved, including those record rainfalls that climate scientists are researching.

H.J. Bosworth Jr., civil engineer and director of research for, told ABC, “This is largely a man-made disaster – to point it only to rainfall is naïve. Yes, there was lots of rainfall, but there was also lots of development. Every time you build a parking lot or a Wal-Mart you add to the burden of the drainage system and all that drainage goes into the Mississippi River.”

“If the rainfall increased in a forest the forest is going to suck up 90 percent of that rainfall. But if it happens in a urban area the pavement and roofs aren’t going to suck up anything,” he said.

At the same time, Robert Criss, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, said, “The rivers need some room and we are getting that message explained very clearly to us year after year. It’s time we smelled the coffee. There is a lot of evidence that floods are not only getting deeper and more severe, but also more frequent.”

Criss said it is necessary to “get people and infrastructure out of the flood plains rather than walling off more of the flood plains. Currently, we are putting more infrastructure in the flood plains. We have square miles and square miles of flood plains that are now huge shopping malls or other things.”

At American Rivers, a conservation organization, Amy Souers Kober cites a disturbing statistic. “We have lost 35 million acres of wetlands in the upper Mississippi basin,” she writes. “That’s an area the size of Illinois. Think of all the floodwaters those wetlands could have held.”

American Rivers and others are part of a growing movement to stop trying to constrict rivers and instead let them follow their natural course, keeping open space for flood plains. The Washington Post reports that places like Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Napa, Calif., and Piece County, Wash., which have had major floods, are taking steps to move development away from their river edges and restore the water’s natural paths. Cedar Rapid is opening up a “floodable greenway,” while Napa is creating a “living river.” ”

Emphasis mine.