Press-Republican

Columns

September 1, 2013

Big numbers, geography and land use changes

About 2.4 million pounds per second.

No, this is not the currency in England. No, it is not the weight of water flowing over Niagara Falls. 

This number is the weight of carbon dioxide we were putting into the atmosphere every second in 2011, primarily from the combustion of fossils fuels and land-use changes. Other smaller amounts may come from deep sea vents, volcanoes and other natural events, but most of this amount comes from “us.”

This number is calculated from the amount of fossil fuels we burn on an annual basis. In 2011, the amount of carbon dioxide we pumped into the air was equal to 38.2 billion tons, which is a 3 percent gain over 2010. In 2012, emissions are expected to be 2.6 percent over 2011, based on data reported in Nature Climate Change, December 2012.

The diagram “Where humanity’s CO2 comes from,” published originally in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides an accounting of this gas and reflects scientists’ best understanding of the dynamics of these processes. The top portion shows that about 91 percent of this gas comes from burning fossil fuels and the manufacture of cement (more on that another time), and about 9 percent from land-use changes. The latter includes the loss of tropical rain forests in South America, Africa, Indonesia and elsewhere.

The bottom portion of this diagram indicates that about 50 percent of this gas stays in the atmosphere, about 26 percent goes back into the land (mostly as biomass) and about 24 percent is absorbed into the oceans.

When we talk about the atmosphere, we can see that this is a very thin layer around our planet like the skin on an apple, or, like the membrane one encounters when slicing onions. The sunrise photo was taken from the International Space Station on July 30 and shows the atmosphere as the thin veil over the planets’ surface. About 90 percent of the atmosphere is within 10 miles of Earth’s surface, and a lot of “stuff” goes on in this narrow layer: all of our weather and climate is impacted here. 

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • ken_wibecan.jpg Another day in the life

    Each morning I rise from bed, slowly, as is my habit, and sit quietly on the bed contemplating the day that looms before me, writes columnist Ken Wibecan.

    August 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR small talk mug 081714 Corner store is no more

    Columnist Gordie Little offers a reminder of the little grocery stores of days gone by.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR skin deep mug 081714 High-end products worth the splurge

    Regardless of the price, writes columnist Felicia Krieg, she would buy the core group of her makeup products over and over again.

    August 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • paul_grasso.jpg Tax code needs overhaul

    Corporations may be criticized for exploiting loopholes, but it is the complex tax system that is at fault, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Ideas about soil health changing

    New techniques like no-til and cover crops can make soil healthier than conventional tillage, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Economy may have changed forever

    The Great Recession has reordered the workforce in a way that makes it unlikely it will ever be the same, according to columnist Colin Read.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg The dark side of fun funerals

    Something strange happened in American culture in the past decade or two: People started planning fun funerals, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    August 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR fit bits mug Developing power key to success

    While strength is important, the ability to generate power is required for many basic activities in life, writes columnist Ted Santaniello.

    August 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR you had to ask mug 081014 Time to reel in youth sports parents

    Do not scream at a child that he's a loser, at least not in a language he understands, columnist Steve Ouellette writes.

    August 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Treating corporations like people

    Problems arise in many areas when businesses take on the attributes of individuals as mandated by the court, according to columnist Colin Read.

    August 10, 2014 1 Photo

Peter Black: Canadian Dispatch

Lois Clermont, Editor

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Extension

Bob Grady

Guest Columns

Peter Hagar: Cornell Ag Connection

Health Advice
Ray Johnson: Climate Science
Gordie Little: Small Talk
Terry Mattingly: On Religion

Steve Ouellette: You Had To Ask

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

Pinch of Time