What Is To Be Done?

(c) 2015 by Barton Paul Levenson

So, if global warming is this much of a threat--and it is--what can we do about it? Sorry for borrowing Lenin's famous title, but if the old Commie wants to sue me from beyond the grave, have at it, Vladimir Ilyich.

Here's an equation for how much carbon dioxide is in the air in a given year:

C = C0 + SN + f E - DN - DA (1)

Term Meaning
C Total CO2 in the atmosphere (kg)
C0 CO2 the previous year (kg)
SN Natural CO2 emissions to the atmosphere (kg)
f CO2 intensity of energy production*
E Total energy production
DN Natural CO2 drawdown from the atmosphere (kg)
DA Artificial CO2 drawdown from the atmosphere (kg)
*Ignoring or incorporating effects from cement production and deforestation.

So what are reasonable values for these figures? I'll spare you the math by which I calculated C0, save that it was based on 400 ppmv CO2.

Term Value c. 2015 Source
C0 3.13 x 1015 kg me
SN 7.70 x 1014 kg Wikipedia
f times E 3.74 x 1013 kg CO2now.org
DN 7.89 x 1014 kg Wikipedia
DA 0 kg me

Working it out with these figures and equation (1), I find the CO2 level next year should be about 3.15 x 1015 kg, for an increase of 0.6%

So What Is To Be Done? We can't have much effect on C0, SN, or DN. If we are to avoid disaster in a few years, we need to lower C. We can do that by lowering f, lowering E, lowering their product, and/or increasing DA. Lowering f is a matter of suppressing fossil fuels and increasing renewables. Lowering E depends on conservation and stabilizing our population. Increasing DN could happen through biochar, carbon sequestration, or exotic techniques to draw CO2 directly out of the air.

Chances of that happening in time? I'm not optimistic.

Page created:02/13/2015
Last modified:  02/13/2015