Carbon Dioxide Emissions Hit All-Time High in 2011

Many of you would not be surprised to discover that the carbon dioxide emission levels hit all-time highs and are (extremely) far from meeting the international goal of limiting the ultimate global warming to 3.6 degrees.  Sadly, we are already nearly halfway there–average global temperatures have increased 1.5 degrees since 1850.  This article discussed how global emissions increased 3 percent in 2011 and anticipate another emission increase of 2.6 percent in 2012.

One of the biggest problems identified is the continued (and increasing) reliance on coal–by far the “dirtiest” of the fossil fuels.  As I discussed in my presentation, using natural gas as an alternative fuel–or even displacing coal and petroleum through a supplementary use of natural gas–could provide remarkable changes in carbon emissions, and subsequently vast differences for our future environment.

Despite an international agreement to curb global carbon emissions, there have been little changes in its three years.  While an international agreement is necessary, the regulatory changes must start domestically.  Without progress at home, enforcement of emission limits abroad seems inane.

There will soon come a day where a carbon-tax will be necessary to deter these detrimental emissions.  As disappointing as renewable energy efforts may seem, the potential for solar and wind energy still surpasses our current technology.  At what point does the United States “lead by example” and implement carbon reducing regulations (i.e. a true carbon tax) that makes a difference?  This study discusses the sustainability of reduced domestic emissions and offers a few hypothetical scenarios that are intriguing.  Efficiency, carbon capture, and renewable energy are possible (or at least plausible) but in order for real changes to take place, a complete overhaul of the United States energy infrastructure will eventually need to take place.  So, the real question is whether it’s going to be sooner or later.

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