Posts Tagged ‘carbon dioxide’

“Next year, when my youngest daughter goes to college, I wouldn’t mind spending more time in Hawaii” I mused over dinner with my friends Tom and Betsy. And quickly added that I felt conflicted about the idea. Given the climate situation, I told them, it felt irresponsible to engage in such gratuitous behavior. Both of my friends looked at me as if I was some crazy woman. Why wouldn’t I want to fly to Hawaii? No way would they change their habit of flying to Europe three of four times a year.  Tom started ranting about not subscribing to moralistic attitudes towards climate change. No, the solution lied in new technologies. What about all the predictions that keep getting worse and worse? I asked. Tom, an engineer with an interest in data visualization, expressed skepticism. There is a lot we don’t know. All those data are to be taken with a grain of salt. No, both he and Betsy were adamant they were not about to change their lifestyle, one bit. I was shocked. And changed subject.

This morning came this alarming news from the Associated Press:

The world pumped up its pollution of the chief man-made global warming gas last year, setting a course that could push beyond leading scientists’ projected worst-case scenario, international researchers said Thursday.

The new numbers, called “scary” by some, were a surprise because scientists thought an economic downturn would slow energy use. Instead, carbon dioxide output jumped 3 percent from 2006 to 2007.

That’s an amount that exceeds the most dire outlook for emissions from burning coal and oil and related activities as projected by a Nobel Prize-winning group of international scientists in 2007.

Meanwhile, forests and oceans, which suck up carbon dioxide, are doing so at lower rates than in the 20th century, scientists said. If those trends continue, it puts the world on track for the highest predicted rises in temperature and sea level.

The pollution leader was China, followed by the United States, which past data show is the leader in emissions per person in carbon dioxide output. And while several developed countries slightly cut their CO2 output in 2007, the United States churned out more.

Still, it was large increases in China, India and other developing countries that spurred the growth of carbon dioxide pollution to a record high of 9.34 billion tons of carbon (8.47 billion metric tons). Figures released by science agencies in the United States, Great Britain and Australia show that China’s added emissions accounted for more than half of the worldwide increase. China passed the United States as the No. 1 carbon dioxide polluter in 2006.

Emissions in the United States rose nearly 2 percent in 2007, after declining the previous year. The U.S. produced 1.75 billion tons of carbon (1.58 billion metric tons).

“Things are happening very, very fast,” said Corinne Le Quere, professor of environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey. “It’s scary.”

Gregg Marland, a senior staff scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said he was surprised at the results because he thought world emissions would drop because of the economic downturn. That didn’t happen.

“If we’re going to do something (about reducing emissions), it’s got to be different than what we’re doing,” he said.

The emissions are based on data from oil giant BP PLC, which show that China has become the major driver of world trends. China emitted 2 billion tons of carbon (1.8 billion metric tons) last year, up 7.5 percent from the previous year.

“We’re shipping jobs offshore from the U.S., but we’re also shipping carbon dioxide emissions with them,” Marland said. “China is making fertilizer and cement and steel and all of those are heavy energy-intensive industries.”

Developing countries not asked to reduce greenhouse gases by the 1997 Kyoto treaty – and China and India are among them – now account for 53 percent of carbon dioxide pollution. That group of nations surpassed industrialized ones in carbon dioxide emissions in 2005, a new analysis of older figures shows.

India is in position to beat Russia for the No. 3 carbon dioxide polluter behind the United States, Marland said. Indonesia levels are increasing rapidly.

Denmark’s emissions dropped 8 percent. The United Kingdom and Germany reduced carbon dioxide pollution by 3 percent, while France and Australia cut it by 2 percent.

Nature can’t keep up with the carbon dioxide from man, Le Quere said. She said from 1955 to 2000, the forests and oceans absorbed about 57 percent of the excess carbon dioxide, but now it’s 54 percent.

What is “kind of scary” is that the worldwide emissions growth is beyond the highest growth in fossil fuel predicted just two years ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said Ben Santer, an atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Under the panel’s scenario then, temperatures would increase by somewhere between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 to 6.3 degrees Celsius) by the year 2100.

If this trend continues for the century, “you’d have to be luckier than hell for it just to be bad, as opposed to catastrophic,” said Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider.

I read this, and I think about my conversation with Tom and Betsy. And I wonder, what is it going to take, for the reality to sink in, with people like them. The message is not getting through.

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I decided it was time for a Climate Change 101 refresher course. The best I could find was Laurie David’s list (http://www.stopglobalwarming.org). Here it is, the list of all I should be doing to do my full share as a green girl wannabe:

1) Use compact fluorescent bulbs. Replace 3 frequently used light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Save 300 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $60 per year.

I have Prad to thank for that one, and also the City of Palo Alto. He is replacing the old bulbs systematically with the new CFBs. The city gives each household, five for a dollar.

2) Inflate your tires. Keep the tires on your car adequately inflated. Check them monthly. Save 250 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $840 per year.

Prad does it for all our cars.

3) Change your air filter. Check your car’s air filter monthly. Save 800 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $130 per year.

Prad does it.

4) Fill the dishwasher. Run your dishwasher only with a full load. Save 100 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $40 per year. Save 200lbs of carbon dioxide and $40 per year. Use the energy-saving settings to dry dishes and don’t use heat when drying.

Prad insists on that one, and we all go along. Except there is the problem of the food drying up, and the need to rinse the dishes thoroughly before we load them. A big source of conflict in our family, since the kids especially are not as meticulous, as Prad would like them to. As usual, I am a lot more casual. If a plate does not get washed right the first time, I just put it in the dishwasher for a second wash. Bad ,bad ,bad . . .

5) Use recycled paper. Make sure your printer paper is 100% post consumer recycled paper. Save 5 lbs. of carbon dioxide per ream of paper.

That one, I do. It is easy, just buy the other kind of paper, it is cheaper too.

6) Adjust your thermostat. Move your heater thermostat down two degrees in winter and up two degrees in the summer. Save 2000 lbs of carbon dioxide and $98 per year.

I had a hard time with turning down the heat in the winter, initially. In France, I had been used to living cozy in a warm home. Prad convinced me, and I am just wearing an extra layer now. The kids are usually always warm, so no complaints there. In the summer, I have never liked the air conditioner. This is not a comfort I grew up with, so it is not hard to give up

7) Check your water heater. Keep your water heater thermostat no higher than 120°F. Save 550 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $30 per year.

I am pretty sure Prad took care of it.

8) Change the AC filter. Clean or replace dirty air conditioner filters as recommended. Save 350 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $150 per year.

Prad, to thank again.

9) Take Shorter Showers. Showers account for 2/3 of all water heating costs. Save 350 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $99 per year.

You mean I can only have one minute showers? I am not there yet, and neither is anybody else in our household, Prad included. The high pressure shower is one of those American indulgences that is hard to give up, a sensual pleasure way up there on the ‘Feel Good’ scale.

10) Install a low-flow showerhead. Using less water in the shower means less energy to heat the water. Save 350 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $150.

Of course, we have those! Still pretty good. No shampoo left in my hair after a shower.

11) Buy products locally. Buy locally and reduce the amount of energy required to drive your products to your store.

In my circles, that usually equates to a weekly visit to the Farmer’s Market.

12) Buy energy certificates. Help spur the renewable energy market and cut global warming pollution by buying wind certificates and green tags.

What’ s that? I think I have seen those at the Whole Foods checkout counter.

13) Buy minimally packaged goods. Less packaging could reduce your garbage by about 10%. Save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide and $1,000 per year.

That one is such an obvious one. Whenever I buy stuff, I systematically ask for no wrapping paper, and no shopping bag.

14) Buy a hybrid car. The average driver could save 16,000 lbs. of CO2 and $3,750 per year driving a hybrid.

Thanks Prad, for buying the Prius. I love it. It’s pretty, drives like a charm, and does not eat up gas like my previous car.

15) Buy a fuel efficient car. Getting a few extra miles per gallon makes a big difference. Save thousands of lbs. of CO2 and a lot of money per year.

We need to get rid of the Toyota Landcruiser, our pre-Al Gore legacy. Still useful for those times when we need to pile up seven teenagers in the car. With the children getting their own cars now, it has to go. Prad’ s convertible Mercedes is also on our list of to go cars. I am tired of Prad always borrowing my Prius.

16) Carpool when you can. Own a big vehicle? Carpooling with friends and co-workers saves fuel. Save 790 lbs. of carbon dioxide and hundreds of dollars per year.

Prad tries to incite me to make less trips and to combine our errands. I still relish the sense of freedom, from not having to plan and taking my car whenever I feel like it.

17) Reduce garbage. Buy products with less packaging and recycle paper, plastic and glass. Save 1,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide per year.

I am pretty good there. Still, the amount of garbage we generate, is appalling. The worst are the plastic bags which cannot be recycled.

18) Plant a tree. Trees suck up carbon dioxide and make clean air for us to breathe. Save 2,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide per year.

Sorry, I do not have a green thumb, and cannot ever recall planting anything. Never mind, that I championed The Witness Trees Project, a big environmental education initiative with old urban trees. . .

19) Insulate your water heater. Keep your water heater insulated could save 1,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $40 per year.

Thanks Prad. Again.

20) Replace old appliances. Inefficient appliances waste energy. Save hundreds of lbs. of carbon dioxide and hundreds of dollars per year.

Done, when we moved into our new house.

21) Weatherize your home. Caulk and weather strip your doorways and windows. Save 1,700 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $274 per year.

Prad is very proud of our highly energy-efficient home.

22) Use a push mower. Use your muscles instead of fossil fuels and get some exercise. Save 80 lbs of carbon dioxide per year.

Even Prad has given into the electric kind.

23) Unplug un-used electronics. Even when electronic devices are turned off, they use energy. Save over 1,000 lbs of carbon dioxide and $256 per year.

We’ve got ways to go, there. We are so plugged in! With the exception of Prad, who is religious about turning off his computer.

24) Put on a sweater. Instead of turning up the heat in your home, wear more clothes Save 1,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $250 per year.

Wasn’t that covered earlier in the list?

25) Insulate your home. Make sure your walls and ceilings are insulated. Save 2,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $245 per year.

Yes, you bet. Thanks to Prad.

26) Air dry your clothes. Line-dry your clothes in the spring and summer instead of using the dryer. Save 700 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $75 per year.

I used to think Prad was some kind of lunatic, with his habit of air drying all his laundry. I am slowly coming around, even considering investing in a real clothesline for the outside . . .

27) Switch to a tankless water heater. Your water will be heated as you use it rather than keeping a tank of hot water. Save 300 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $390 per year.

I don’t know what that is. I will have to discuss with Prad, my in house engineer/environmental expert.

28) Switch to double pane windows. Double pane windows keep more heat inside your home so you use less energy. Save 10,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide and $436 per year.

Done. By Prad, when we built the house.

29) Buy organic food. The chemicals used in modern agriculture pollute the water supply, and require energy to produce.

I could be a poster babe for Whole Foods.

30) Bring cloth bags to the market. Using your own cloth bag instead of plastic or paper bags reduces waste and requires no additional energy.

No additional energy? If it was that easy, how come I keep forgetting?

31) Install a ceiling fan instead of air conditioning.

We do not use air conditioning. Wasn’t that covered earlier in the list?

32) Choose re-usable cleaning products like sponges instead of paper towels that cause excess waste

I really should. And I don’t.

33) Check your oven timer instead of opening the door.

I never use the timer. I like to peak in, once in a while.

34) Cover your pots when boiling water.

I did not think of this. I will try to remember.

35) Use microwave for smaller heating jobs.

Or better yet, use the toaster oven. That one is a Prad’s idea. He and my daughter go at it, when she insists on using the big oven for small baking projects.

36) Sign up for renewable energy.

You bet.

37) Check with utility provider to see if they have a renewable energy, or green power program.

Palo Alto is amongst the greenest cities in the US. They have a great program. Prad signed up, of course.

38) Choose library books over buying new ones and share your own books with friends.

I love the library. I stopped buying books a long time ago, after my divorce, when my fortune took a turn for the worse. The habit has stayed with me.

39) Eat local food once a week. Food grown locally does not travel the typical 1,500 miles to get to your plate.

Last Sunday, we went to the farmers’ market with our friends, and all prepared lunch together afterwards, with the produce we had just bought. I wanted to use fresh mozarella in the salad, though. I found some in the fridge, that I had bought at Whole Foods. Was that local?

40) Rethink take-out habit. Take-out food waste, like containers and plastic bags, is usually non-recyclable and has increased significantly over the recent decades.

Prad and I are big take-out offenders. Often times, we do not want to bother with cooking, and the kids much prefer Chinese or Mexican take out, anyway. I must say, I cringe, whenever I have to dispose of all the cartons, the styrofoam boxes, the soiled wrappers.

41) Buy clothes made from organic cotton and support brands that don’t use harmful chemicals.

I would, if the style went with it.

42) Buy products with recycled content and increase your recycling at home by 10%

I usually do not check for recycled content. Prad is getting on our case for not making more of an effort with recycling.

43) Take a shower instead of a bath. Baths can take up to 50 gallons of water.

We are all shower people in our house, with the exception of Catherine, who loves her baths.

44) Grow plants instead of buying fake ones. They look better and improve the air.

I come from France, where we do not like fake things.

45) Print and make copies on both sides of the paper to save trees and ink.

That’s good when you have a printer specially configured for double sided printing. Mine is not that good. I have to admit, I am a big paper waster. Lots of room for improvement there!

Going through the list took a lot of time. Thanks to Prad, we are not doing too bad.

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