Climate change and CO2

For once when I asked the government a written question I received an answer.

I asked?? <em>"How much carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere each day ,and what proportion is from human sources"</em>

The answer stated "The amount of carbon dioxide emitted from human sources is small in comparison to natural flows:at around 3% emitted from the land and oceans to the atmosphere"

The Minister also told me "In 2004 the UK emitted approximately 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per day "(I think from human sources). This compares with?? the "25 billion tonnes emitted each year globally" from human sources and the total emissions of 800 billion tonnes from all sources.

It is just useful to understand the scope of the problem and the UK human component.?? According to the government the UK human component represents 2% of the world total human emissions, or 0.06% of total emissions.

So what should we conclude?

Climate change theorists point out that the human element may be very small, but it is the one which is growing quickly, and at the margin will do the damage. People who follow the precautionary principle say this theory may well be right, so we had better act. Many other people say they believe the theory but do not act – like the Prime Minister who tells us this is a serious crisis, but he has no intention of cutting his air miles.

Common sense suggests that because the UK represents such a small part of the problem, we are going to depend on decisions in India, China and the USA to make a bigger impact on human emissions. Of course our government should seek to influence them, and stress the value of greater fuel efficiency and stricter controls on emissions. We should also continue to cut our own fuel use at home, at work and on the move. Technology can be our ally in this.??Prudence??nonetheless dictates that we should take action now to proect ourselves against the possible bad consequences of??global warming.

There are two main bad consequences put forward for the UK. The first is a possible water shortage in the drier south and east of the country. The second is too much water in some rivers at flood time, and in the sea, leading to inundation.

Government should take action now to build stronger sea defences, especially close to the London conurbation where most people are at risk. This could be paid for by creating new land in the shallows of the Thames estuary, and selling this for development to finance the higher tidal surge barriers we will need.

The government and the water regulator should include a capacity target in the regulatory structure, to require the industry to put in more water capacity – whether by way of mending pipes more quickly or building extra reservoirs – to eliminate anyt possibility of water shortage. The Environment Agency should order works on our main rivers to guarantee better containment of flood water levels, or safe deposit of excess water on flood plain.

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20 Comments

  1. Kit
    Posted January 25, 2007 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    "Government should take action now to build stronger sea defences" – the UN's IPCC leaked report is predicting a possible 17 inch rise in water levels over the next century – this is much lower than their last estimate. So lets save our tax money until we see evidence of rising water levels (over natural post-glacial increases).
    If there is a business case for "creating new land in the shallows of the Thames estuary" then do it – it should not be tied to global warming.

  2. Posted January 25, 2007 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    I don't find the argument that we can't do it alone & therefore shouldn't bother convincing. This is the argument that we shouldn't report crime because it won't stop it unless everybody does.

    However it is a moot point because what 3% of total CO2 release proves is that it is far to small to have a significant effect on total CO2, which in turn is almost certainly a lesser part of warming, the main bit being solar variance.

  3. billy
    Posted January 26, 2007 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    I believe that if I take the opposite stance to Friends of the Earth I won't be far wrong on global warming. It's just another device for tax gathering.

  4. schober
    Posted January 27, 2007 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    better still, leave the eu (to avoid the landfill directive nonsense)
    use the land behind the sea walls for landfill and when high enough build houses
    if you include the east caost of the uk there should be many centuries of land fill
    (the govt thinks this lando is of no value since its decided not to repair sea walls)
    kills several birds with one stone

  5. Richard Cocks
    Posted January 28, 2007 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    John's question, and the government's answer to it, leaves room for confusion about the human effect on climate change. Neil Craig at least, see comment 2 above, has been misled.
    The natural world has been busy pumping out huge amounts of CO2 for billions of years. It has also, simultaneously, been absorbing it. It's the way carbon-based ecosystems work. The carbon emitted comes from the carbon eaten, which comes from the carbon absorbed which comes from the carbon emitted… and so on.
    Then, around the time of the dinosaurs, a lot of dead vegetation fell into swamps and didn't decompose to CO2. Over millions of years it became coal, gas and oil instead. With less CO2 in the atmosphere, the Earth's temperature dropped substantially.
    So the 3% of total emissions that humans are now responsible for is the 3% that the global biological system does not have the capacity to soak up. When we have burnt it all we will be back to the pre-Carboniferous climate. There's no problem with the other 97% – it is being absorbed by plants as fast as ever.

  6. P H Newall
    Posted January 30, 2007 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    The alleged demise of the human race unless we DO SOMETHING requires global agreement. Meanwhile here are a few things that could be easily done:

    1. Develop an anti-waste attitude in the home.
    2. Do we HAVE to keep all the lights in our offices on all night?
    3. Importing huge tonnages of hardwood from abroad, encourages people to cut down the rain forests like there is no tomorrow (no pun intended). Cutting down huge swathes of forest must surely be a major contribution to global warming.
    4. Intensify our research into hydrogen and other alternative, non polluting, fuels.
    5. Resist the Global Warming 'band wagon' excuse to invent a new tax raising opportunity.

  7. Sue Doughty
    Posted January 30, 2007 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Why do we still let water run down hill without catching its potential energy for the National Grid? Why is making your own home carbon zero not (stealth) tax zero?
    I think all disabled people who need a stair lift and a dishwasher and other gadgets ought to be given a free installed wind turbine, and photovoltaic roof tiles, to offset the cost of running them.
    Is joined uop thinking like that too futuristic for Britain? It already happens in Switzerland!

  8. John Passey
    Posted March 12, 2007 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    At last a politician (John Redwood) is challenging the convential wisdom about the role of carbon dioxide and so called greenhouse gases in general. Anyone with only a basic knowledge of chemistry would find that there are far more questions than answers. For my part I have never been able to find an explanation of why miniscule quantities of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are responsible for altering the physical process of heat transfer. Does anyone really know anything about the process?

    • Duncan
      Posted February 10, 2009 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Molecules absorb certain wavelengths of radiation depending on their distribution of electrons and the vibrational modes of the chemical bonds. It so happens that CO2 has a strong absorption in the infra-red component of light.
      Now when things are heated they radiate energy back as light with the wavelength depending on how hot the material is. The hotter the object, the shorter the wavelength. For the ambient temperature of the Earth the largest chunk of this radiation is infra-red.
      Therefore what happens is high frequencies of light from the sun is mostly transparent with respect to the atmosphere so the sun's light heats the land and sea. The Earth's surface radiates back most of the heat back as infra-red radiation and much of it escapes into space. As CO2 absorbs energy in this region less escapes back to space and the Earth warms. As the absorption is quite strong and the sun lights the Earth with 1.740×10^17 W of energy this quickly adds up.
      Or more simply put water vapour, CO2, methane plus some other effects are like a blanket!

      • John Passey
        Posted August 19, 2009 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        Thanks Duncan. This is useful information but the next question is whether there is any quantitative information of the 'blanket' effect of CO2. What for instance would be the effect of an increase of 100 parts per million in the atmsophere?

        In determining the mass balance between the release of CO2 and the absorbtion of CO2 there is the considerable influence of the amount disolved in rain water. The bulk of CO2 absorbed must end up in the sea as carbonic acid. One would expect the amount left in the atmosphere to be temperature sensitive so that remaining concentrations would vary from predominantly cold areas to tropical areas. Are there any readings that would confirm this?

  9. Posted April 3, 2007 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Richard that is simplistic. Vegitation did not spring into existence at 2the time of the dinosaurs" – there has always been coal being formed & released. However the Earth's living systems are living systems – which means they can easily adapt to using 3% more CO2 – indeed the evidence of tree ring growth is that the rise in CO2 is already meaning that plants are growing better. For those of us who eat food this is not a bad thing.

    • Duncan
      Posted February 10, 2009 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      If that is so why has the Earth's CO2 risen by 30% in the last 200 years. Shouldn't the plants be absorbing it all?

      Obviously they can't.

      • Posted February 11, 2009 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        As I mentioned tree ring growth is accelerating. That wood comes from atmospheric CO2. There is little point in claiming something cannot happen when their is concrete scientific evidence that it is happening. Next you will be saying that there cannot be more snow this winter because 20 years ago the alarmists said that global temperature would have gone up another degree by now.

        • Duncan
          Posted February 11, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

          I think you must misunderstand me.
          CO2 has risen by 30% and plants are absorbing more CO2. As the CO2 is rising the plants must not be able to absorb all this extra CO2.

          The 3% extra CO2 Richard mentioned has accumulated in the atmosphere to give a 30% increase which we have now. Therefore any increase in the absorption of CO2 by plants and other CO2 sinks is obviously much less the this extra CO2 created. 3% of trillions of tonnes is no small matter.

  10. Posted July 30, 2008 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    So, there are 6.5 BILLION people on our planet. They all breathe in oxygen and breathe out CARBON DIOXIDE (C02).

    So how much C02 do we the people emit into the atmosphere. Well, lets try to compute it. Scientists can correct me as to the real amount since my estimates will be ballpark. But theirs seem way low.

    Most humans breathe about 12-15times a minute. So we’ll take the average of 13 breathes a minute.

    Take out a small one pint brown paper bag and breathe into it. See how many breathes it takes to fill that bag with C02 (as if you were hyperventilating). I estimate six exhales will fill that one pint bag. Since we all exhale an average of 13 times a minute that means we exhale – each of us – 2.3 pints of C02 a minute which is 2 lbs. of C02 per minute by each human and each animal on the planet.

    There are 6.5 billion people on the planet. Each one is emitting this 2 lbs. per minute so that’s 6,500,000,000 X 2 = 13,000,000,000 (Billion) pounds of C02 per minute. Divide that by 2000 for metric tons and you get 6,500,000 (Million) metric tons per minute by humans with another 6.5 million by the other animals on the planet. So for the daily total, multiply 13 million tons per minute by 1,440 minutes in a day and you get approximately 18.6 billion metric tons each and every day plus an adjustment for the .3 which would make the new total: about 21 billion tons a day.

    I make that over 7 TRILLION TONS a year.

    It has been estimated that industry around the globe produces some 750 billion metric tons of C02 a year.
    From my calculations, animals (including us) produce over 7 TRILLION metric tons of C02 each year all by ourselves..

    If someone wants to dispute the 13 breaths a minute or the 6 exhales to fill the 1 pint bag, do so. I admit I am estimating as best I can but the rest of the extrapolation is right.

    If every plant in the world shut down tomorrow, we would still produce a lot of C02. Much more than ever before in history because in the last 500 years alone – the world’s population has risen 1100%. The animals which feed them have also multiplied. And the C02 withboth of us.

    So if you think C02 is a problem – which I do not – you all better stop breathing. That will cure two problems: the amount of C02 being emitted and the excessive number of people now on the planet.

    But of course, that won't be necessary because C02 is not a problem and there is no man-made global warming. It’s just a myth.

    Joey http://www.journals.aol.com/chonors686/joeypage1/

    • Duncan
      Posted February 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      I saw an estimate for the amount of CO2 a human exhales in one day is 1kg. Each breath we exhale is about 3% CO2.
      Also 1kg of CO2 is about 555 litres at standard temperature and pressure.
      Which is irrelevant anyway because almost all this CO2 is derived from plants which absorbed the CO2 fairly recently so it is just recycling in the atmosphere, not in addition to what was already there.

      Though agriculture is a major contributor to pollution and CO2 production in other ways.

  11. Posted July 30, 2008 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Moderation???? Is this a controlled forum?

  12. Posted January 21, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    CO2 is essential and not a pollutant. CO2 is required to prevent our blood becoming too alkaline. Also if there is lots of carbon dioxide in your blood, your blood vessels will expand to allow more oxygen to get to your organs, and contrarily, if there is very little, they'll constrict.

    Trees and plant life need CO2 from the atmosphere and in turn release Oxygen for humans and animal life.

    The Sun is causing changes to global temperature not human activity. We are indeed destroying the biosphere with chemical pollution however.

    The is particularly sad when you realise that Nicola Tesla discovered clean energy in the form of Zero Point Energy over 100 years ago. This clean and largely free of cost energy has been deliberately withheld from us by the people behind globalism for reasons that are too many to mention.

    Cannabis can be used to make plastics, paper, oil, highly nutritious food, clothing and bags so why is it banned?

    Isn’t it funny that the way the government always tries to solve a problem involves raising TAX? CO2 tax anyone? A tax on BREATHING! Wake up!

    Go to my link page for important info.

  13. Paul A
    Posted September 9, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m shocked. You have a reputation as an intelligent man, but your post displays an ignorance of some basic scientific concepts (e.g. the carbon cycle and photosynthesis). As someone else pointed out, the natural world absorbs CO2. You should have asked the government about NET CO2 emissions. Net emissions from natural sources are actually negative figure – the natural world absorb a proportion of man-made CO2 emissions. If it were true that the natural world is responsible for 97% of net carbon emissions then we should have starved to death a long time ago (more vegetation was dying off than photosynthesising and re-growing), and then we would have choked to death through lack of oxygen (when carbon, C, is released it binds with oxygen, O2). The analysis of isotopes of carbon confirms that the source of the 30%+ increase in CO2 emissions we have experienced in modern times is largely from humans burning fossil fuels. The isotope Carbon14, for example, has a radio-active half-life of around 6000 years and so is not present in fossil fuels. The amount of C14 in the atmosphere has declined in relative terms. There is other evidence from the analysis of isotopes of carbon which I suggest you obtain from reputable scientific websites.

    One last point for your other respondents – the carbon humans exhale comes from the food we eat. As that food is grown it has to absorb carbon from the atmosphere in order to grow. Breathing is therefore carbon neutral.

    Apologies for coming to this topic about 2 years late, but I feel it is critical to correct your extraordinarily misleading comment.

  14. Sam
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I think we should start putting away some money now so we don’t have a sudden taz increase when we start seeing more evidence of global warming, we do not need to make sea defenses now because we’ve a century to go. If the government could perhaps be smart with the tax payers money and think long term, maybe we could get somewhere without there being uproar.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

    Promoted by David Edmonds on behalf of John Redwood both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU

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