Global CO2 emissions fall in 2009
2 more rare species cited
In Cancun, politicians from everywhere are meeting (very nice weather this time of year) to discuss climate change. Global gases -- down due to recession -- come also from longer trips and loss of forests. We trim, blend, and append four articles, one of 2008 from: (1) the Guardian, Feb 13, on ships' exhaust by John Vidal; and three of 2010 from: (2) Grist, July 20, on total emissions by Amy Heinzerling, a staff researcher at the Earth Policy Institute; (3) BBC, Dec 2, on owls; and (4) Associated Press, Dec 3, on foxes by Scott Sonner.
by J. Vidal, by A. Heinzerling, by BBC, and by S. Sonner
Global CO2 emissions fall in 2009
Over the 10 previous years, global carbon dioxide emissions rose by an average of 2.5% a year -- nearly four times as fast as in the 1990s. Yet in 2009, emissions fell, brought down by wealthier countries as the global recession took hold in 2008 and 2009.
Yet the 2009 amount is still more than nature can handle. Oceans, soils, and trees absorb only somewhat more than half of the CO2 emitted. The rest remains in the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide emissions in the world’s most populous countries, China and India, continued to grow rapidly. China’s emissions rose to 1.86 billion tons of carbon in 2009, representing nearly a quarter of global emissions from fossil fuel burning. With average annual emissions growth of 8% over the past decade, China overtook the United States in 2007 as the world’s leading CO2 emitter. India’s emissions grew by close to 5% a year over the past decade; the country passed Russia in 2007 to become the world’s third largest emitter.
Still, emissions per person in developing economies remain below those of most of the industrial world. Australia, the United States, and Canada lead the world, emitting 4-5 tons of carbon per person in 2009 -- three times those in China and nearly four times the world average. While many European countries, such as Great Britain, Germany, and France, have comparable standards of living to America, they emit only half as much CO2 per person.
The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which stood between 260 and 285 parts per million from the beginning of agriculture until the Industrial Revolution, has risen in the last two-and-a-half centuries to over 387 ppm today. The last time CO2 levels were this high was 15 million years ago, when sea level was 80-130 feet higher and global temperatures were 5-11 degrees F warmer.
JJS: Emissions totals for individual countries include fossil fuels burned within their borders. What about burning beyond borders?
Shipping boom fuels rising tide of global CO2 emissions
When the world's largest merchant ship ferries its monthly cargo of 13,000 containers between China and Europe it burns nearly 350 tonnes of fuel a day -- equivalent to a medium-sized coal power station.
The world's burgeoning shipping fleet currently emits 1.21bn tons a year, constituting nearly 4.5% of world emissions. Emissions from ships emit twice as much CO2 as planes.
Ships burn "bunker" fuel. Marine heavy fuel oil, which is burned by all large ships, is the residue of the world's oil refineries and is so thick that when cold it can be walked on. It is 60% cheaper than cleaner oils and demand for it is soaring. It's the cheapest and dirtiest fuel in the world.
A UN report suggests ways to cut emissions from ships:
* burn higher quality fuel;
* reduce ships speeds by 10%, reducing CO2 emissions 23%;
* fit ships with "scrubbers" to capture emissions;
* design new ships more efficient yet.
JJS: While burning fossil fuel emits most CO2, changing land use, such as clearing forests for cropland, emits a lot, too. Deforestation in tropical Indonesia and Brazil alone represent over 60% of land-use-change emissions. Yet endangered species in shrinking habitats struggle on.
Strange 'long-whiskered owl' spotted in Peru
Bird-watchers in Peru caught a glimpse of a bizarre-looking bird. The long-whiskered owlet, a species first discovered in 1976, has not been seen for 26 years. The area it inhabits is under threat from deforestation.
The tiny species, Xenoglaux loweryi, has long bristles around its beak, and delicate feathers that extend into whiskers.
The long-whiskered owlet is listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, because of its very limited range of approximately 73 square miles. The bird's habitat is restricted to cloud forests -- moist, tropical forests characterized by frequent low cloud cover.
Rare red foxes confirmed in Sierra Nevada
Two more Sierra Nevada red foxes -- once thought extinct -- were photographed in September in the Stanislaus National Forest.
The first confirmed sighting of the subspecies in two decades came in August about 4 miles when a remote camera captured the image of a female fox in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest near Sonora Pass.
The pair -- one male and one female -- were caught on film by motion-activated cameras triggered when the bait -- in this case, a sock full of chicken -- was disturbed.
DNA samples were obtained from fox scat, collected where the animals were spotted. There's enough diversity in the DNA to indicate a fairly strong population.
Once widespread throughout California's mountains, this particular red fox subspecies -- or geographically distinct race -- is one of the rarest mammals in America.
JJS: These species can survive if their habitat can survive. And their habitat can survive if humans consume less Earth. Humans can consume less Earth, and keep progressing materially, if humans use Earth efficiently. That means, no vacant lots in cities but multi-storied buildings and pocket parks, no sprawling bedroom communities but “edge cities”, no clear-cutting but selective logging, no polluting with toxic gases but recycling of waste byproducts and waste heat, and the list goes on.
So why do humans not use the technologies that spare Earth? Because prices tell humans to waste Earth. To make prices realistic, humans would have to level the playing field. Get rid of taxes that make goods expensive and rid of subsidies that make bads cheap. Then, just by trying to save money, humans will choose the green path.
Use geonomics and humans will save money, the atmosphere can re-stabilize, and the whole planet can take a breather.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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