I’m sure everyone that follows Low Carbon Girl’s facebook page saw the Seattle PI article about National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) report that our global CO2 levels have gone over 400 parts per million. NOAA’s widget (left) resides in this blog’s right-hand sidebar. I’ve watched the numbers quietly rise every month, but now they’re in red and they show no signs of slowing.
“This marks the fact that humans burning fossil fuels have caused global carbon dioxide concentrations to rise more than 120 parts per million since pre-industrial times,” added Tans. “Half of that rise has occurred since 1980.”
Almost three years ago when I started this blog, CO2 levels were at 392.92. I made some observations that I’d like to correct and they point to the even greater importance that we look for alternative energy sources, conserve resources and consume less. Here goes:
The idea that a person should be concerned about the parts per million of CO2 in our atmosphere entered my consciousness four years ago when I read an article about NASA’s James Hansen with the unsavory message that our CO2 was ALREADY beyond safe limits. I figured a rocket scientist would know these things, so I started to worry about CO2 ppm but didn’t know what to do.
I’m pretty sure I read about it in the NYTimes or New Yorker and clipped the article for my Thoughts file, but the link above was one of the online versions I found, see who it’s written by? Bill McKibben! Mr. 350.org himself. And, it looks like, from his byline, that this was before he formed 350.org.
When the article was written, our atmospheric CO2 was 383 ppm. James Hansen’s position was that we need to get our CO2 levels back down to 350 ppm (it’s now at 392.92), kinda heading in the wrong direction.
What is a Human’s Baseline Annual CO2 Emission?
All of this got me thinking, if we’re oxygen breathers, CO2 emitters, what’s the CO2 cost of a human before we do anything at all (like jump in a car, run to the store and buy meat and dairy)? No one really wants to ask that question, right?
One source puts the number between 328.5 kg and 206.23 kg a year. Most CO2 measurements are in tonnes, not the American ton. What’s the difference you may be asking (and why are we the last ones to use the metric system)? A ton is measurement used exclusively in the US and it is equal to 2,000 lbs. A tonne is equal to 1,000 kg. Here’s where my brain starts to hurt.
Just so you can check my math when I convert the numbers above:
- there are .45359237 kilograms in a pound
- 2,000 pounds are equal to 907.18474 kg
- 1,000 kilograms are equal to 2,204.623 lbs.
We emit between .33 and .21 tonnes a year or .36 and .23 tons a year.
Clearly, just being human isn’t that big of a deal, it’s gotta be burning fossil fuels (like they’ve been saying) that is causing the majority of the problem. Whew!
I can’t believe I didn’t multiply the number of CO2 a year by the number of people. And, now there are over 7 billion people on the planet – wow!! You can watch numbers spin forward here. Anyway, I took a snapshot (left) and then multiplied the population number with the low end of the CO2 exhaled per person (.23 ton/yr), which equals over a billion and a half tons of CO2 (1,682,834,489.85). So, kind of a lot just for breathing.
As the population grows the need to conserve resources and consume less grows as well.