Archive for April, 2008

More CO2 and more coal

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide increased by 2.4 parts per million (doesn’t sound like much, does it) last year.

NOAA CO2 graph
NOAA CO2 graph

The rate of increase in carbon dioxide concentrations accelerated over recent decades along with fossil fuel emissions. Since 2000, annual increases of two ppm or more have been common, compared with 1.5 ppm per year in the 1980s and less than one ppm per year during the 1960s.

Atmospheric methane, which had been stable for a few years, has also begun to increase.
NOAA methane graph
NOAA methane graph

Methane levels rose last year for the first time since 1998. Methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but there’s far less of it in the atmosphere—about 1,800 parts per billion. When related climate affects are taken into account, methane’s overall climate impact is nearly half that of carbon dioxide.

Rapidly growing industrialization in Asia and rising wetland emissions in the Arctic and tropics are the most likely causes of the recent methane increase, said scientist Ed Dlugokencky from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory.

Meanwhile, China and India are building coal plants like there is no tomorrow, and now European anti-nuclear power countries, Germany and Italy, are as well.

Over the next five years, Italy will increase its reliance on coal to 33 percent from 14 percent. Power generated by Enel [Italy’s major electricity producer] from coal will rise to 50 percent.

And Italy is not alone in its return to coal. Driven by rising demand, record high oil and natural gas prices, concerns over energy security and an aversion to nuclear energy, European countries are expected to put into operation about 50 coal-fired plants over the next five years, plants that will be in use for the next five decades.

Enel is buying into French nuclear power plants. And Italy plans to build new nuclear in-country, as laws there are changing. But both Germany and Italy appear to have gotten themselves (and the rest of us) in a GHG hole with their policies.

Back in the US: the Des Moines Register is covering a substantial range of viewpoints on a proposed coal plant. The only options being discussed are a mix of efficiency and wind, or that plus the new coal power plant.