Tag: carbon dioxide

How prioritizing human health can help stop climate change

The clean air of the Hydroelectric Reservoir at Buntzen Lake, British Columbia, Canada

The rising atmospheric CO2 levels and the climate change it leads to is often framed as a towering, existential threat – one which threatens the stability of vast ecosystems and the vulnerable species therein. Setting aside the devastating ecological impacts the overproduction of CO2 results in, there is another benefit to reducing CO2 production that is often overlooked.

Over a third of CO2 production is due to energy generation, and the burning of fossil fuels often results in the production of not just pollutants with global warming potential, but pollutants with strong, direct negative impact on human health (Sergi et al, 2020). Sulfur dioxide results in acid rain, while nitrogen oxides and particulate matter (soot) are respiratory toxins. Transitioning away from fossil fuels not only helps the global fight against climate change, but protects the health of individuals living near facilities which produce noxious chemicals as a result of energy generation.

A study has shown that prioritizing human health along with reducing global warming, can highlight the need for transition to greener technologies more effectively. This suggests that benefits to human health and the reduced economic harm caused by poor air quality should not be an afterthought in this conversation. Learn more from this press release on the study examining this problem here!

Narrowing the Range of Climate Change

CO2 atmospheric concentration and emissions have been on the rise since industrialization. This graph plots a pink line representing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere (ppm) and a blue line representing total CO2 emissions (billions of tons) each year from 1750 to 2019. (NOAA Climate.gov)

150 years ago, the global concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 280 ppm. Current CO2 levels have risen to over 400 ppm, leaving many to question what our world will look like if CO2 levels double to 560 ppm compared to the pre-industrial average. A recent study examined this question, taking into account previous studies with multiple kinds of evidence, including how clouds and water vapour will affect and be affected by global warming.

The study projected that an increase in global temperature, compared to the pre-industrial average, to 4.5 °C is unlikely to occur but that an increase of 1.5 °C will almost certainly be exceeded. The study estimates that there is a 66% chance that we can expect a temperature increase between 2.6-3.9 °C.

Read an article which goes more in depth about the results here, and the original paper here.

The forgotten history of climate change science

The historical figure Eunice Newton Foote is illustrated standing in front of chemistry equipment, reading from a piece of paper.
Scientists Eunice Foote and John Tyndall are a few of the forgotten climate science pioneers (Illustrated by Carlyn Iverson, NOAA)

Greenhouse gasses trapping heat re-emitted from the Earth and as a result warming Earth’s atmosphere is not a new line of study. As early as the 1850s, scientists like Eunice Newton Foote and John Tyndall demonstrated that gases like carbon dioxide and methane were capable of trapping heat, but they are both relatively unknown for their contributions. Additionally, Tyndall went on to make many other discoveries before his death in 1893, including why the sky is blue.

Read more about the history of climate science here!