China and the United States today produce nearly half of the world’s carbon emissions, so the fight against global climate change depends greatly upon what actions the two countries take. China has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past twenty years from a largely rural society to one that is far more urbanized and far more energy intensive. In 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol on climate was negotiated, China was only responsible for 14% of global CO2 emissions. It then surpassed the US on that front in less than 10 years and now accounts for nearly 30% of the world’s emissions.
Turning Carbon Dioxide Into Rock
There is a lot of interest in figuring out a way to store carbon dioxide produced from industrial processes and energy plants or even sucking it out of the atmosphere and then storing it. The problem is where exactly to put the stuff and how to make sure that it stays there.
Accidental Ethanol From Carbon Dioxide
Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee were trying to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn carbon dioxide into a useful fuel. But the unexpected occurred: they found that the first step in their process actually got the job done all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which is already used to power generators and vehicles.
The Methane Riddle
Most of the blame for climate change has been placed on the growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but methane also plays a major role. Estimates are that about 1/5 of greenhouse effect warming is caused by methane in the atmosphere. There is far less of it than carbon dioxide, but methane is tremendously more effective at trapping heat.
Climate Change And Fish
According to a recent study published in the journal Global Change Biology, rising CO2 levels in the ocean can disrupt the sensory systems of fish and can even make them swim toward predators and ignore the sounds that normally deter them from risky habitats.
A Climate-Friendlier Coolant
Recently, negotiators from more than 170 countries reached a legally binding accord in Kigali, Rwanda to cut the use of hydroflurocarbons, or HFCs, which are chemical coolants used in air conditioners and refrigerators. HFCs are just a small percentage of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but they are supercharged greenhouse gases that have 1,000 times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide.
Canadian Carbon Tax
The Canadian government has chosen a carbon tax as its national policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This aggressive move could have major repercussions around the world.
Carbon Dioxide Continues To Rise
Back in December of 2013, a little less than three years ago, Earth Wise reported that the observatory on Mauna Loa in Hawaii had briefly measured carbon dioxide levels greater than 400 parts per million for the first time ever. During the following year, readings above the 400 level started to pop up occasionally elsewhere as well.
Small Forests And Climate
Trees are the number one way in which carbon can be removed from the atmosphere and stored in vegetation over the long term. A single tree can absorb CO2 at a rate of 48 pounds per year. Because of this, the carbon footprints of 18 average Americans can be neutralized by one acre of hardwood trees. And it has been found that managed forests accumulate more carbon per acre than unmanaged forests.
The Carbon XPrize
The Carbon XPrize is a five-year, $20 million competition to identify ways to convert carbon emissions into successful, profitable and useful products. Forty-seven organizations from seven countries are competing for the prizes and include large companies, startups and university researchers.
Turning CO2 Into Rock
One of the strategies to tackle the problem of increasing greenhouse gas emissions that are resulting in climate change is Carbon Capture and Storage or CCS, which seeks to prevent CO2 from entering the atmosphere and to instead tuck it away somewhere. A longstanding approach to doing it is to store it underground in voids such as abandoned oil and gas reservoirs. There are various complications associated with this idea, not the least of which being potential leakage of the stored CO2.
CO2 Air Capture
The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached 400 parts per million and is still rising. Climate scientists say that 450 parts per million would be dangerously high. Many experts say that we really need to get back to 350 parts per million. We are trying to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Reducing Emissions From Ships And Planes
The global efforts to reduce carbon emissions are marked by a conspicuous omission: the aviation and shipping industries. These two industries contribute 6% of all man-made CO2 emissions, but have so far managed to avoid international control. And not only are they major sources of carbon emissions, their contributions are growing three times faster than overall global CO2 emissions.
The X Prize Foundation provides financial incentives for innovative solutions to various technical challenges. Topics have ranged from developing spacecraft to trying to create a real-world version of the Star Trek tricorder. Last year, the foundation launched a $20 million challenge to come up with technologies by the year 2020 that turn carbon dioxide captured from the smokestacks of power plants into useful products.
Turning Air Into Fuel
There is a global effort underway to combat climate change. The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the primary culprit. As a result, there are two things to do about it: reduce the amount of CO2 we are dumping into the atmosphere and try to remove some of what is already there.