Climate News and Views
Hot Year, Cool Response -- A view of the year in climate
The Human Eruption of CO2: 'Way beyond volcanoes
Among the truth-y sounding statements by climate change deniers is that the natural output of carbon dioxide by volcanoes makes any human emissions pale in comparison. And the amount of CO2 outgassed by eruptions does sound large -- about 260 million tons a year. Actual measurements and research, however, show that human emissions are by far the dominant force in raising the level of greenhouse gas in the air. Last year more than 35 billion tons of CO2 was spewed by our energy, transport, manufacturing, mining, farming and land use -- which is 135 times as much as came from volcanoes. We are the real "geologic force."
See a review of studies and fresh calculatons by volcanologist Terry Gerlach of USGS's Cascade Volcano Observatory in EOS (PDF).
And a story of the record level of CO2 emitted by energy production last year, in our News and Views.
Meanwhile, citizens from across the country are protesting in front of the White House, urging the Obama Administration to block a proposed pipeline that would carry more than 700,000 barrels a day of what has been called "the most costly and toxic oil on earth" almost 2000 miles from the tar sands of Alberta to Texas.
NASA climate scientists James Hansen wrote recently that "if emissions from coal are phased out over the next few decades and if unconventional fossil fuels including tar sands are left in the ground, it is conceivable to stabilize earth's climate. Phase out of emissions from coal is itself an enormous challenge. However, if the tar sands are thrown into the mix, it is essentially game over. There is no practical way to capture the CO2 emitted while burning oil, which is used principally in vehicles."
Added to this, the extraction of the oil from the sands creates 40 percent more greenhouse gases than regular oil, and is polluting and ripping apart the ecosystems of the Athabasca region in Canada.
To show opposition and to urge the President to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, more than 1250 demonstrators have been arrested for peacefully but illegally gathering in front of the White House -- including writer Bill McKibben, scientist James Hansen and leading environmentalist and educator Dean Gus Speth, formerly of Yale. Thousands of others took part in the two-week long demonstration -- one of the largest single environmental and civil disobedience actions in U.S. history. A final environmental analysis of the project is due soon, after which Obama will have 90 days to decide whether the pipeline is in the U.S. national interest.
McKibben recently reminded us -- and the President -- of what candidate Obama said in June 2008:
"...if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.... This was the moment – this was the time..."
Please see Grist and Climate Science Watch for news and links about the pipeline and the tar sands.
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