Greenhouse Gas (GHG) and it’s effects on Global Warming – A Case For Change

Global Greehouse Gas (GHG) emissions have increased continuously since the beginning of the industrial revolution, resulting in a 40% increase of atmospheric GHG according to the World Meteorological Organization.  Without significant attention to reducing our global GHG emissions, scientists predict the continued rise in atmospheric and oceanic temperatures as well as the continued melting of glacial flows.   Under ongoing greenhouse gas emissions, available earth system models project that the Earth's surface temperature could exceed historical analogs as early as 2047 affecting most ecosystems on Earth and the livelihoods of over 3 billion people worldwide.  Should the Greenland glaciers fail, global sea levels could rise as much as 20 feet, flooding global costal regions.       

In 1950 GHG emissions were twice that of 1910 levels.  Since 1950 global GHG emissions have increased eight fold.  2012 worldwide GHG emissions were at an all-time high of 39.6B metric tons, with US emissions at 5.54B metric tons.  Carbon emissions remain in the atmosphere for 100 years, while other GHG components such as methane remain in the atmosphere for up to 7,000 years – which means that the effects of most of the man-made carbon emissions made since the dawn of the industrial revolution are yet to be fully experienced.

Just like the water cycle, there is a natural carbon cycle present in our atmosphere between the oceans, plants, and animals as living organisms both produce and absorb carbon dioxide every day.  The earth’s inherent systems create a balanced carbon cycle in which the natural greenhouse gas emissions are processed by the earth’s forests and oceans.  Manmade greenhouse gas emissions account for a roughly 5% increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.  Unfortunately, the earth’s natural systems can process less than half of that annual increase (primarily in the form of increased oceanic ‘forcing’ which increases ocean temperatures and acidity levels) This means that each year the carbon cycle becomes increasingly out of balance, the effects of which can be seen in global temperature records since1800.   

The Presidential Climate Action Project organization has projected that in order to curb global climate change and avoid the potential catastrophic impacts foreseen in scientific models, the world will have to reduce man-made Greenhouse Gas emissions 60% in developing countries and 80% in industrialized nations by 2050.  Reductions of this magnitude are anticipated to be sufficient to keep CO2 levels at 400 to 450ppm, the threshold required to keep mean global temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial revolution levels.

According to BP’s Target Neutral:

Emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels are contributing to the warming of the earth’s surface temperature. In its Fourth Assessment Report, published in 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, established by the UN to provide a balanced view of the issue, stated that warming of the climate system was “unequivocal” as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea levels.

Current forecasts underscore the size of the climate change challenge. BP’s analysis suggests that CO2 emissions could rise by 27% by 2030 despite expected tightening in global climate policy. Even assuming that more aggressive policy changes are enacted, carbon emissions are likely to rise by up to 9% by 2030. These are projections, and not propositions for a desired outcome.