Brett Smith for RedOrbit.com
New evidence points to troubling levels of carbon dioxide, the world´s primary greenhouse gas, in the Earth´s atmosphere.
Several arctic monitoring stations are measuring more than 400 parts per million (ppm) of the heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere this spring, compared with the 350 ppm that many scientists say is the highest safe level for carbon dioxide.
While some carbon dioxide production is natural, from decomposing dead plants and animals, most comes from the burning of fossil fuels, scientists say.
According to researchers, although only the Arctic monitoring stations have reached the 400 level, the rest of the world will follow soon.
“The fact that it’s 400 is significant,” said Jim Butler, global monitoring director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, Colo. “It’s just a reminder to everybody that we haven’t fixed this and we’re still in trouble.”
The jump in carbon dioxide over the past few years should not come as a surprise to those familiar with worldwide levels of emissions currently being recorded. According to a recent International Energy Agency report, last year´s levels of fossil fuel-based carbon emissions were at an all-time high of 34.8 billion tons. This represents a 3.2 percent increase from levels recorded in 2010.
Carbon dioxide is the chief and most effective greenhouse gas and stays in the atmosphere for approximately 100 years. According to climate scientists, the 2011 emission levels set the world on a path toward a dangerous 2 degrees Celsius rise in average temperature. The result of this increase would be a water and food scarcity in certain areas along with increased levels of disease.
The IEA said it’s becoming unlikely that the world can achieve the European goal of limiting global warming to just 2 degrees based on increasing pollution and emission levels.
“The news today, that some stations have measured concentrations above 400 ppm in the atmosphere, is further evidence that the world’s political leaders – with a few honorable exceptions – are failing catastrophically to address the climate crisis,” former Vice President Al Gore, said in a statement. “History will not understand or forgive them.”
Some cutting edge research points to the possibility of creating manmade solutions to what many consider a manmade problem. Scientists at Rice University, the University of California, Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) published a study this week that showed new materials could help reduce as much as 30 percent of the energy costs associated with removing carbon dioxide from power plant emissions.
The new study, published this week online in Nature Materials, found that commonly used industrial minerals called zeolites could significantly reduce the energy consumption of carbon capture technology. Zeolites are microporous minerals typically comprised of silicon and oxygen. About 40 exited in nature and 160 know zeolites are manmade.
Using computer modeling technology, the research team was able to identify zeolites best suited for carbon capture use. The models and calculations developed by the team will allow for a more rapid analysis of any future zeolite materials that are developed.
Brett Smith for RedOrbit.com