There is an amazing page online called Breathingearth that uses reputable sources to show real-time data via an interactive world map that displays country by country population stats and CO2 emissions. A bird's-eye view that allows the viewer to drill down into each country to see their individual and per capita CO2 contributions. One can take as little or as much as they like from this piece, from simply checking what their own country's status is to comparing their output with other countries and discovering who the real greenies and carbon monsters are.
Some surprising revelations can be found on Breathingearth. Take Denmark. When one thinks of Denmark, they think of eco-friendly, recycling, bicycle-riding folk who are kind to the planet. Well, for a Scandinavian country known for their extensive wind farms, heavy taxation on cars and programs to convert rubbish into fuel it is surprising to realise they are fairly heavy CO2 emitters. In the UK where there is a lot less bicycle riding and recycling going on, the per capita CO2 emission is 8.95 tonnes a year, in Denmark it is 10.58 tonnes a year. Surprised? In Finland it is a whopping 12.96 tonnes a year and in Norway 9.25 tonnes. The only country in Scandinavia that has less per capita emission than the UK is Sweden with only 5.68 tonnes a year.
Sweden has almost twice the population of Denmark, but the Swedish per capita CO2 contribution is half that of the Danes. Put into that perspective, that's a lot of CO2 from Denmark, a 'green' country. But let's give the Danes their dues, they are against nuclear energy, so their energy comes from burning fossil fuels, which is the main contributor of CO2 emissions after animal agriculture. Sweden uses a number of reactors and this certainly helps to give their low statistic. So for all the hype about Scandinavia being green, only one of its four countries has a lower per capita emission than the UK. Depending on how much time you want to spend exploring Breathingearth, there is plenty of enlightening information a climate concerned citizen might find intriguing.
To see the data so succinctly and elegantly presented is a rare gift. Climate change is a political, moral, and above all personal issue. Very few non-scientists have the time or the resources to collate all the information together into one space for other non scientists to discuss and disseminate. It's a daunting task to wade through hundreds of conflicting pages of articles, graphs and data regarding CO2 emissions/population stats, and ferret out the grains of truth hidden amongst them. But David Bleja did take on the task, and now on one page anyone who can click a mouse is able to grasp the global reality of what billions of humans are doing to our planet, in real time. 71,000 likes on Facebook simply falls short of how widely circulated this page should be...compare this to a YouTube video that recently went viral with over 3 million views in four days just because an Australian news anchor suggested that her colleague's 'equipment' was small. In an ideal world those numbers would be reversed.
But it won't become an ideal world anytime soon. On Sat 19 Feb, the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives dealt sweeping blows to climate science funding by voting through massive budget cuts. If these cuts are enacted, the message the US will send to the rest of the world will be crystal clear. Climate change is not an issue, protecting the environment is not a priority, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not necessary. The numbers are disturbing, approval to cut NASA's budget by $298m has been voted through, effectively shutting down the climate science division of NASA, forcing NASA to focus its energies on the bigger priority of human spaceflight. IPCC will lose $2.3m in funding, which equates to almost its entire fund of $3m, the Environmental Protection Agency will lose a staggering $1.6bn and even the White House would be affected by the removal of funding for its incumbent climate change advisor.
Additional cuts - $900m for energy efficiency programs; $1bn on high speed rail and reducing the budget for the National Ocean and Atmospheric Agency.
But here's the thrust of this post. Let's go back to Breathingearth and mouse over the US. For those of you who haven't the time, here's the bottom line, while the House of Representatives are denying that climate change is an issue, while they are putting forward measures to "block funds for specific environmental programmes. Several of those funding vetoes involve the EPA's recent moves to regulate greenhouse gas emissions" While they are proposing to "prohibit the EPA from using any funds to enforce emissions rules on power plants and cement manufacturers, or from increasing the use of ethanol" the little map shows us something simple and terrifying.
The population in the US is rising. Carbon emissions are rising with the current per capita output of CO2 at 19.22 tonnes per year. The highest on the planet.
There is nothing more disturbing than the thought of the US government releasing the reins on their industries, allowing carbon emissions to soar even higher than they already are; it is tragic to think that they wish to cut the funding of those who monitor the changes on the planet, those scientists of NASA and NOAA who will be told to shut down their equipment and go home; satellites that will be put into sleep mode; but the greatest crime of all is forbidding the EPA to stop any of the devastation from unfolding.
Perhaps one day in the future if the US continues to step away from its global responsibilities, the time will come when the nations of the world will be forced to unite and levy carbon tax 'sanctions' against the US, to offset the costs of cleaning up after them. Don't think it's that bad? In the last 30 seconds 13,000 tonnes of CO2 was poured into the atmosphere globally, of that 5,000 tonnes of it came from the USA.
God bless America.
Originally posted on Paradigms Bend Feb 24 2011