Carbon dioxide is not a very popular substance. As a greenhouse gas, it is the chief culprit in climate change and, as such, the world continues to seek solutions for preventing its release in the environment.
There are an estimated 84,000 dams in the United States which impound 600,000 miles of river, or about 17% of the rivers in the country. Within the next 15 years, more than 90% of the world’s rivers will be fragmented by at least one dam.
There are many environmental problems associated with ruminant livestock and these problems continue to grow as the demand for meat-rich diets increases around the world. One of the biggest problems is that cows emit methane through eructation (or belching) as they chew their cud. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, some 25 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. More than a quarter of all human-originated methane going into the atmosphere comes from raising livestock.
Capturing carbon dioxide instead of releasing it into the atmosphere is a way we can use fossil fuels without it having harmful effects on the climate. Energy storage is a way to address the volatility of clean energy sources like wind and solar power. Excess energy stored during peak production can be used when production ceases, such as when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.
There’s ample evidence over the past decade or so that Americans are gradually changing their diets, driven by health concerns among other factors. But there’s one change that really stands out. According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans have sliced their beef consumption by 19% between 2005 and 2014.
Most of the world has accepted the analysis of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists that shows that our planet is warming and that our actions are the primary cause. However, some people – notably a number holding high office – reject this analysis. What exactly does it imply to say that climate change is not happening or is not caused by us?
In 1988, President Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol, which banned CFC refrigerants like Freon in air conditioners and refrigerators. The chlorofluorocarbons were the cause of a giant hole in the ozone layer, which has been shrinking ever since the ban. Unfortunately, the chemicals that replaced CFCs – hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs – have their own major problem: they are a seriously bad greenhouse gas, far worse than carbon dioxide. Last fall, an international agreement was reached by over 170 countries to reduce and eventually replace HFCs, which included 100 developing countries like China and India where air conditioning use is growing fastest.
When we think of global climate change, what comes to mind? Rising seas? Melting glaciers? Shrinking sea ice? How about diminishing ocean oxygen levels?
Installations of solar power continue to increase rapidly around the world and in no place more than China. By the end of 2016, total solar generating capacity in China reached 77.4 gigawatts, making it the largest producer of solar energy in the world. Globally, there is a total of 228 gigawatts of solar power installed, although that number keeps changing rapidly.
Climate change is posing a major threat to the future of coral reefs. According to a recent United Nations-backed study, if swift action is not taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions, annual coral bleaching events will affect nearly all of the world’s coral reefs. And coral bleaching can result in serious coral mortality – as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has recently illustrated.
A year ago, nearly 200 countries signed an agreement, known as the Paris Accord, to fight climate change by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. They each promised to reduce their carbon output as soon as possible, and to do their best to keep global warming well below 2-degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Climate change is posing a major threat to polar bear survival. The polar bear, whose native range lies largely within the Arctic Circle, depends on sea ice for nearly all of its life cycle functions. And rising temperatures are causing that sea ice to disappear.
With the forthcoming administration change, it appears that the federal government is likely to start backing away from tackling climate change and may even be obstructive towards efforts to mitigate the growing problem of greenhouse gas emissions.
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.
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.
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.
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.