Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Climate of planet Earth: food for thought

The Climate of Planet Earth: food for thought

The 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has started in Paris. What will be discussed at this summit? We suggest that you familiarize yourself with the data, graphically presented in the format of infographics, which will help you get your first idea of ​​this conference in particular and the problem of global warming in general.

The average temperature of the atmosphere has increased by 1 degree Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era. This is at least the assumption made by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 
(IPCCExternal reference). Many experts question these statements, but one thing is clear: these organizations now have the largest amount of data that allows them to draw at least some conclusions for the medium and long term.

If we follow the logic of the IPCC and WMO, then the main reason for the increase in the temperature of the earth's atmosphere, disruptions in the usual rhythm of changing seasons, rising sea levels and more and more frequent weather anomalies is carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. The saturation of the atmosphere with greenhouse gases leads, in turn, to the release of additional volumes of CO2.

To break this vicious circle, the IPCC and WMO recommend that the industrialized countries of the world take a number of measures in order to limit the rise in the average temperature of the earth's atmosphere to 2 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era. In 2009, the heads of the world's major countries and governments agreed, by the way, to recognize this indicator as a common long-term goal for all. On the other hand, the Earth's atmosphere still has a certain margin of safety, and therefore the IPCC allows the continued emission of CO2 into the atmosphere, albeit to a certain, strictly limited extent.

To prevent the atmosphere from warming up by more than 2 degrees it is necessary to keep CO2 emissions below 3,200 gigatons

CO2 calculated in gigatons. If mankind fails to keep CO2 emissions below 3,200 gigatons, then the safety margin of the planet Earth will be used up in 30 years at the latest.

3,200 Gigatons CO2

On the eve of the climate conferenceExternal reference Paris, the UN called on all UNFCCC member states to formulate and submit their so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs) or “Post-2020 National CO2 Reduction Package”. Switzerland, one of the first countries in the world, formulated and presented its goals back in February 2015.

So far, 160 countries out of 195 have formulated such "packages", but the difficulty here lies in the fact that different countries use different methods of calculating their national contributions to the achievement of international climate goals. This circumstance could become one of the most serious obstacles on the way to the signing of a new global climate agreement, designed to replace the Kyoto Protocol in the period after 2020.

Another difficulty lies in the fact that all countries of the world should join this still hypothetical agreement, and not only the most developed and richest, as was the case with the Kyoto Protocol, which expired in 2012. However, practically all the questions and problems that the delegates of the summit that began this Sunday (November 29, 2015) will have to face, are highly complex.

How much should you reduce CO2 emissions? What measures should be taken by which country to achieve the set climate goals? What should be the financial assistance provided by the richest countries of the world, such as Switzerland, to the poor countries of the southern part of the planet so that they too have a chance to prepare for the negative consequences of global warming?

CO2 emissions - always others are to blame!

Any discussion about global warming always, sooner or later, comes to the question of what greenhouse gases are and what effect they have on the climate and weather on Earth. And here everything again rests on the need for a universal system for measuring emissions.

It is clear that China or the United States are responsible for the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, which is many orders of magnitude higher than the total CO2 emissions, the culprit of which is such a small country as Switzerland. Therefore, in order to be able to compare, the volumes of greenhouse gas emissions are calculated, for example, per capita or based on the national GDP of a given state. Another question is related to the historical responsibility for carbon dioxide emissions.

It is known that most of CO2 come to the atmosphere from "developing" countries, whose representatives, on the contrary, believe, for example, that the main responsibility for climate warming lies with the industrialized countries, which "managed" to extract the sole benefit from the combustion of mineral fuels in terms of the transition from traditional industry to a knowledge-based innovative economy, and now "do not allow" developing countries to follow the same path. Understanding this problem will help this graph, which shows in a historical perspective the share of CO2 in the atmosphere, which falls on the rich developed countries.

From this graph, it follows that, since 1850, the United States and Europe have accounted for about half of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere as a result of the combustion of mineral fuels (coal and oil). It is not surprising, therefore, that many less developed countries consider themselves entitled to demand financial assistance in order to get the opportunity to adapt to the new climatic conditions on the planet.

For their part, rich and developed countries, among them Switzerland, point to another "stubborn" figure, namely, the fact that CO2 emissions in developing countries are increasing per capita. As for the developed countries, they have already managed to enter the period of post-industrial society and create a knowledge economy, which made it easier for them to solve the problem of reducing the volume of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. The global industrial and financial crisis of 2008-2009 had the same impact on them.

Transfer of production

According to the Global Carbon Budget 2014 ReportExternal reference,» Another factor in favor of the developed industrial world was the tendency to transfer industrial production to countries with cheap labor, such as China. It has been very effective in helping the wealthy countries of the north reduce their share of the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.

But there is another difficult question here, namely, who - the producing country or the consumer state - is responsible for the volumes of CO2 that arose during the production of, for example, the latest electronic gadgets, such as mobile phones, tablet computers, and televisions. ... This question is really difficult, but it is by no means unsolvable.

And if we evaluate the volumes of the so-called "consumer emissions", then the situation with developed countries begins to look completely different: same Switzerland, being a world industrial center and a leader in the export of goods, exports abroad the volume of "deferred emissions" of greenhouse gases, which is three times exceeds the volume of CO2 arising from the activities of its own, domestic industry. And thus, the Confederation fully deserves the right to be in one of the first places in the list of countries with the largest volume of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere per capita.

Greenhouse gases

Gases with high transparency in the visible range and high absorption in the far-infrared range. The main greenhouse gas in the Earth's atmosphere is water vapor (responsible for 60% of the greenhouse effect). Other greenhouse gases, in order of their estimated impact on the Earth's heat balance, are carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone.

Sources of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere are volcanic emissions, the life of the biosphere, and human activities. Anthropogenic sources are the combustion of fossil fuels, combustion of biomass, including deforestation, and some industrial processes (eg. cement production).

Plants are the main consumers of carbon dioxide, however, in a state of equilibrium, most biocenoses, due to decay of biomass, produce approximately the same amount of carbon dioxide as they absorb. Anthropogenic emissions increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is believed to be the main driver of climate change.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) argues that the "greenhouse potential" of methane is even more dangerous. The main anthropogenic sources of methane are digestive fermentation in livestock, rice growing, and biomass combustion (including deforestation). There is more methane in the Earth's atmosphere now than at any time in the past 400,000 years.

Source: WikipediaEnd of insertion


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