“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

CO2 Now | CO2 Home

I've seen widgets on various web sites that track atmospheric CO2 and, in glancing at one, something caught my eye. I determined to visit the source site, called CO2 Now | CO2 Home to verify that what I'd noticed was accurate. Here's the image I looked at:

Now, what disturbed me is that the year over year increase was about 72% larger in the July, 2009 to July 2010 period (0.606%) than in the July, 2008 to July 2009 period (0.352%). This is quite disturbing in that the July 2009 to July 2010 period is one of subdued economic activity in much of the so-called developed world (to be fair, much of the previous period could also be described in this way).

Here's a brief graph of world GDP from 2005 to mid - 2010:

(Source: http://www.economicswebinstitute.org/ecdata.htm and http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTDEC/EXTDECPROSPECTS/EXTGBLPROSPECTSAPRIL/0,,contentMDK:20370107~menuPK:659160~pagePK:2470434~piPK:4977459~theSitePK:659149,00.html)
Note that while world GDP declined for the first period noted in the CO2 concentration above and rose at about 3.3% for the second, the dip in GDP is not mirrored by a reduction in slope of the graph of atmospheric CO2 concentration for the period. I don't know whether the absence of a decrease in rate of growth of CO2 concentration is due to a statistical fluke, measurement error, volcanic eruption, or the increased use of coal to provide primary energy in emerging economies - China and India in particular. But an increased growth rate of atmospheric CO2 concentration without an increase in the rate of growth of economic activity is a disturbing data point.


Michael Tobis said...

There's a surprising amount of year-to-year variability which is not well-understood. Both ocean circulation and large biotic reservoirs are suspect; emissions are not. This may help.

King of the Road said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
King of the Road said...

Thanks Michael. If analyzed from a simplistic point of view (atmospheric carbon is a function of emissions, emissions are a function of economic activity and carbon intensity) then the failure is to show a temporary decrease in the slope of atmospheric carbon as a function of time.

So, I don't know if it's increasing carbon intensity with the rise of China and India or of decreasing effectiveness of carbon sinks. It seems like it would be good to know though.