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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Carbon, Cars and Canaries

Flames approaching Highway 50 during Caldor Fire in California. (Adobe Stock Photos/kcapaldo)

Randy Bryan

This is my final regular column for Green Energy Times discussing electric vehicles in New Hampshire. I am signing off with some regret as the issues around driving electric in NH only get larger and more important. In parting, I offer issues and thoughts for your consideration. Please bear with me as some are bluntly stated.

In the last 800,000 years of ice and temperate ages, 290 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere was conducive to the cause of current natural (temperate) climate, and 190 ppm coincides with a mile of ice over our heads (ice age). We’ve had eight to 10 ice ages in that time, in repeatable intervals and ppm ranges. That’s a 100-ppm difference between a full-on ice age and 1900s climate. The world atmosphere now has 410 ppm carbon dioxide, last seen nine million years ago. This change has been caused by us in only the last 50 to 100 years. We are more than 100 ppm over the 290 ppm and already 1°C over 1900s temperature norms. From 1900 to 1950 sea level rose about 2 to 3 inches. Since 1950, sea level has risen about 8 inches. When last at 400 ppm, the sea level was (20m) 50 feet higher than now. Note that ppm counts change air temperature quickly and remain in the air-water for centuries-millennia, sea level and other environmental consequences of temperature change take hundreds and thousands of years to play out. At the era’s ppm and temperature maximum (30 million years ago) sea level was about 200 ft higher than now (all the coastal plains were flooded). We have compressed thousands of years of natural climate disruption into decades, and the consequences will play out over the centuries or millennia.

There are very long-term consequences to this greenhouse gas accumulation, where leveling or even stopping carbon combustion won’t stop the coming train wreck but can only make it less severe. We have all seen the climate changes and more severe weather in recent decades. But that is a drop in the bucket compared to what we have consigned our great-great grandchildren and their progeny to live through. It has been estimated that even if we stop all carbon combustion now, the sea will rise seven to 10 feet over the coming few hundred years (only two to three feet by 2100). What will become of coastal cities? Weather and climate disruptions will likely follow the same course. Every year we don’t stop using carbon energy, we increase the future damage. All because we won’t recognize and correct our addiction to carbon energy.

As Bill McKibben and 350.org so poignantly tell us in the article “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, Rolling Stone”, the global oil, gas, and coal carbon energy industry has at hand over five times the amount of proven carbon reserves than is needed to create the 1.5°C global temperature increase limit recommended by global climate scientists. We’re already at 1°C higher from pre-industrial levels. Make no mistake, the global carbon energy industry intends to sell those carbon reserves since they are the basis for their corporate valuations (stock value, salaries and bonuses, expertise, credit-loans, capital and operating budgets, etc.), including their material suppliers and service contractors. Allowing even half of these reserves to be combusted will raise the earth’s temperature by over 5°C.

As I look for canaries in our mine shaft, consider these continuing developments:

The UN IPCCC has now labeled global warming as an URGENT matter.

The Artic and Antarctic ice shelves are melting faster than expected.

The ocean currents like the gulf stream are slowing (less temperature difference from equator to poles).

Climatic (temperature) bands are moving northward at about 35 miles per decade. (NH could be like NC is now by 2100, then hotter still).

U.S. wildfire and flooding damages are 4 times and 20% respectively ahead of just a decade or two ago.

The U.S. still has a federal flood Insurance program.

We (population increase and global warming) are causing a global sixth great extinction event.

GM, Ford and Chrysler chose to only market and make SUVs and trucks (more polluting and profitable). What do you drive?

Tesla is the only car company making money making electric vehicles.

NH is the only state in New England not aligned with the NESCOM/California zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) mandate.

New Hampshire lags all other New England states in the deployment of charging infrastructure.

Europe now averages 25% of new cars sold being plugins, while the U.S. and NH average about 2.5%.

I repeat: the worst effects of what we do today will be left to our children and their progeny to deal with. That we haven’t changed aggressively, speaks poorly of our generation. There is lots to do to make our lives more sustainable. I salute everyone working to make NH and our planet more so. We need to expand our outreach quickly. We need solutions. We need a more favorably inclined NH populace and government. Please G.E.T. involved.

Thank you all for your continued interest and readership.

Randy Bryan is one of the co-founders of Drive Electric NH. Bryan has been an advocate for electric cars since 2006. His company, PlugOut Power (formerly ConVerdant Vehicles), has converted vehicles to plug-in hybrids and currently develops and sells inverters that turn electrified cars into mobile generators.

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