The Average American Melts 645 Square Feet of Arctic Ice Every Year

Nov 3, 2016

By Robinson Meyer

Who is to blame for climate change?

Of course, we all are. If you’ve lived on Earth for even a couple of years, then greenhouse gases—emitted by you or for your benefit—have in some small part helped cause warming temperatures, rising sea levels, and mass extinctions.

It’s that “in some small part” that’s the rub, though. Global warming is a global phenomenon, with millions of victims and billions of culprits. At that kind of scale, how much of that melting ice cap are you responsible for, really?


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15 comments on “The Average American Melts 645 Square Feet of Arctic Ice Every Year

  • @OP – It’s that “in some small part” that’s the rub, though. Global warming is a global phenomenon, with millions of victims and billions of culprits.

    Ah! but Trump has the answer for Americans in Florida!! 🙂

    He is going to stop wasting $billions on reducing CO2 and increases in global warming (it’s only a Chinese conspiracy anyway), and divert the money to “US environmental issues”, such as protecting Florida from flooding!

    Of course anyone who had read the geologists reports would know that the the porous rock structures under Florida, would allow seawater to well up behind any flood defences which are built.
    Because limestone is porous, freshwater gradually dissolves the rock and forms cracks and passages. The limestone layer of the state is honeycombed with underground rivers and caves.
    – b but those geologists are probably just part of the that Chinese scientist’s conspiracy to ruin American industries!!!! (according to Trump an his cheerleaders chorus!) 🙂

    https://thinkprogress.org/scientist-miami-as-we-know-it-today-is-doomed-its-not-a-question-of-if-it-s-a-question-of-when-3b3212be388d#.uhytnbnwt



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  • I was a little surprised by the claim that 2,500 miles of highway driving = 1 ton of carbon so I decided to run the numbers. I’ll be charitable and assume they meant carbon dioxide rather than just carbon.

    Let’s assume a modern petrol car mpg of 40 miles per UK gallon. 2,500 miles = 62.5 gallons. The specific gravity of petrol is about 0.75 so that’s 62.5 x 7.5 = 468.75 lbs of petrol. Approximately 85% of petrol by mass is carbon so that’s 398.4 lbs of carbon. The atomic mass of carbon is 12 and that of oxygen 16 so the atomic mass of CO2 is 44.

    If all the carbon burns to form carbon dioxide we get a total mass of 398.4 x 44/12 = 1461 lbs of CO2. A long way short of a ton. In fact we need to assume a mpg of only about 25 to get a ton of CO2 from 2,500 miles of driving. Maybe realistic for a mix of cars and trucks I suppose. However for a modern diesel car doing 60 mpg it’s more like 6,000 miles per ton of CO2.



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  • It seems that US motor transport is rather less fuel efficient than the better UK vehicles!

    I guess that’s because in the US we define as ‘Light Duty’ even cars and especially pickup trucks with monstrous (from an European viewpoint) naturally aspirated V8 engines often exceeding 5000 cc…



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  • You’ve also got to remember that a US gallon is smaller than an imperial one. Multiply US mpg by 1.2 to get UK mpg. So the fuel efficiency for cars in that table in recent years is pretty decent – low to mid 40s UK mpg.



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  • Hopefully much more constructive efforts will be made not only to tackle CO2 pollution and climate change, but in educating the public in the implications of this!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-37872111

    Paris climate deal enters force as focus shifts to action

    Governments have agreed to keep the global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – and preferably 1.5 degrees.

    “This is a moment to celebrate,” United Nations climate chief Patricia Espinosa told Reuters.

    “It is also a moment to look ahead with sober assessment and renewed will over the task ahead.”

    Delegates from almost 200 countries are meeting in Marrakech next week to consider the way ahead beyond Paris.

    The deal agreed in the French capital less than a year ago commits governments to moving their economies away from fossil fuels.

    On Thursday, a UN review of national pledges to cut carbon said they fall short of the levels needed to keep the rise in global temperatures under 2C.

    The report found pledges from governments that have ratified the accord would see the world on track for a rise in temperatures by the end of this century of between 2.9 and 3.4 degrees C.

    Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst

    The Paris climate pact comes into force less than a year since it was agreed. The last major climate deal – the Kyoto Protocol – took eight years to come into force. Paris is the first agreement tying rich and poor nations in a common endeavour to protect the climate. However, the national targets for cutting carbon emissions are voluntary. The UN tried a mandatory approach but countries that were failing to meet their targets simply quit.

    The process of the Paris deal is binding, including a commitment for governments to keep returning to the issue to ratchet up the clean energy targets that they all agree are inadequate. Governments that rushed to enshrine Paris in law have had one eye on the US elections. Hilary Clinton has pledged to take President Obama’s emissions cuts further. Donald Trump wants to tear up the agreement.



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  • Paris climate deal enters force as focus shifts to action
    Governments have agreed to keep the global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – and preferably 1.5 degrees……….Paris is the first agreement tying rich and poor nations in a common endeavour to protect the climate.

    What if governments cannot keep global temperature rise to exactly two degrees Celsius and “preferably” limit the rise to 1.5 degrees? What if it goes slightly over the “limit” and settles at 2.5 degrees? It’s all speculation. It’s all prevarication.

    However, the national targets for cutting carbon emissions are voluntary. The UN tried a mandatory approach but countries that were failing to meet their targets simply quit.
    The process of the Paris deal is binding, including a commitment for governments to keep returning to the issue to ratchet up the clean energy targets that they all agree are inadequate.

    This statement doesn’t make sense. “The UN tried a mandatory approach” is an oxymoron. The UN has virtually no power over the policies, practices or “offenses” of sovereign nations. “Mandatory” implies effective enforcement and punishment of violators that corrects actions out of compliance with objectives. “Mandatory” also implies that parties to the agreement cannot renounce contractual obligations but that is what actually happened without consequences -a confusing contradiction. “Voluntary” implies that a party may drop out of the agreement at will. Asserting that “the process of the Paris deal is binding” is another confusing contradiction. It seems to be saying that an ephemeral good-will sentiment hovers over the process that “obligates” all parties to keep talking, and talking and talking while nothing gets done.

    Governments that rushed to enshrine Paris in law have had one eye on the US elections. Hilary Clinton has pledged to take President Obama’s emissions cuts further. Donald Trump wants to tear up the agreement.

    Why? Hillary Clinton is going to be the next president of the United States and she will uphold the agreement. Not to worry? – Not so fast. The United States will remain the number two CO2 emitter in the world for years to come long after Clinton has left office. How will developing poor nations react when the U.S., China, and the European Union start chiding them for failing to reach their puny cutback targets as they achieve rapid economic growth – increases in production, consumption and fossil fuel use gradually overcoming wretched standards of living? Even if crazed U.S. leadership were to drop out for the sake of argument, wouldn’t the reduction of global greenhouse gases remain the same life-or-death priority for the rest of the world?



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  • Melvin

    How will developing poor nations react when the U.S., China, and the European Union start chiding them for failing to reach their puny cutback targets as they achieve rapid economic growth –

    I think that you will see the big three offering help as much as any admonition. China, at least, will be in there fixing things. The poor nations would kick up a stink if the big three were not making relative improvements. The deltas involved are what sensible judgments of others will entail.

    The thing is complicated with lots of unknowns. Making the undertaking one of “best endeavours” and “see how we go” is entirely what this huge undertaking of mutual help needs to get it unstuck and moving. Success will breed success.



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  • Meanwhile, as the deniers TRUMPet their nonsense, – as expected, the global climate is utterly unimpressed by them!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-37900400

    New data released by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) shows that the five years from 2011 to 2015 were the warmest on record.

    The report, published at global climate talks in Morocco, strongly links human activities to rising temperatures.

    It says that some studies found the the burning of fossil fuels had increased the probability of extreme heat by 10 times or more.

    The authors say that 2016 will likely break the record for warmest year.

    African exception

    In their report on the global climate 2011-2015, the WMO says that the world’s temperature was 0.57C above the long term average, which they define as being between 1961 and 1990. The five year period was the warmest for all continents except Africa.

    Throughout these years, temperatures over most of Europe were more than one degree Celsius above the long term trend.

    This was also the case in the Asian part of the Russian Federation, over much of the Sahara and Arabian regions, parts of South Africa, southwest US and the interior of Brazil. The mercury even reached three degrees above the average on the Arctic coast of Russia.

    The new report highlighted the human fingerprint in these emissions and the link to extreme weather events by looking at academic literature in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS).

    “Of 79 such studies published by BAMS between 2011 and 2014, more than half found that anthropogenic climate change contributed to the extreme event under consideration,” the new report says.



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  • Alan4: New data released by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) shows that the five years from 2011 to 2015 were the warmest on record.
    The report, published at global climate talks in Morocco, strongly links human activities to rising temperatures.

    What do statistics show about enlightened European “human activity” in choosing to drive alternative fuel-powered vehicles over conventional fossil fuel-powered vehicles:
    NEW PASSENGER CAR REGISTRATIONS BY ALTERNATIVE FUEL TYPE IN THE EUROPEAN UNION

    1 Quarter 4 2015 Alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) registrations: +20.0% in 2015; +21.1% in Q4 In the fourth quarter of 2015, total alternative fuel vehicle registrations in the EU continued the positive momentum (+21.1%), totalling 164,718 units. Of these, electric vehicle (EV) registrations showed a substantial increase (+160.5%), more than doubling. EV registrations rose from 22,531 units in Q4 2014 to 58,689 units in Q4 2015. Demand for new hybrid vehicles (HEV) also grew significantly (+28.8%), reaching 60,911 units. On the other hand, new registrations of cars powered by propane or natural gas showed a double ‐ digit dip ( ‐ 31.8%) similarly to the previous quarter, totalling 45,118 – more than 20.000 units less than in Q4 2014. Among the EU’s major markets, the Netherlands saw the largest increase of AFVs registered over the last quarter (+258.1%), followed by France (+43.7%), Germany (+27.8%) and the UK (+17.4%). Growth in these countries was fully driven by electric and hybrid electric car markets, especially in the Netherlands where the largest number of new electric cars was totalled. Italy performed less well compared to Q4 2014 ( ‐ 23.6%), mainly due to the decline observed in the gas ‐ fuelled car registrations, which represent more than 80% of total AFVs. In 2015 , more than half a million AFVs were registered in the EU, up 20% compared to 2014. This represents 4.2% of total passenger car registrations. The uplift was fully sustained by the electric (+108.8%) and hybrid electric (+23.1%) markets, while the other alternative fuels declined ( ‐ 8.4%).

    Though deceptively encouraging, the statistics strongly suggest countervailing negative factors (bold type) eclipsing any realistic trend changing out fossil fuel for alternative fuel vehicles on an economy of scale. Annual rates of increase in AFV registration shows a huge increase (258.1%) in a single small European nation, the Netherlands. Rates of increase quickly taper off for the big three European economic powers: France 43.7%; Germany 27.8; and the UK with a pathetically puny 17.4%. If a trend toward AFVs were emerging one would expect western Europe’s super power, Germany, to be showing exponential rates of growth rather than an anemic middling number. Another fatal sign is that affluent Norway with the equivalent of an urban area population of 5.2 million people, accounts for 30% of all EVs driven in Europe. Growth rates for AFVs are calculated on tiny bases and appear impressive until compared against aggregate registrations. 4.2% of total passenger car registrations, new and old, show that 96% of Europeans are filling their conventional fossil fuel tanks with petrol or diesel whenever they drive. Environmentally conscious western European citizens are just not buying and driving hybrids, plug-in hybrids or EVs in sufficient numbers to phase out ICE motors.



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  • Melvin #10
    Nov 8, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    What do statistics show about enlightened European “human activity” in choosing to drive alternative fuel-powered vehicles over conventional fossil fuel-powered vehicles:

    They show that electric vehicles are new technology under development, which will take time to get fully into place.

    In the mean time progress has been made increases in the efficiency of carbon fuelled vehicles to improve mpg. and reduce the pollution.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2012/09/12/even-with-stricter-new-rules-u-s-still-lags-in-fuel-economy/

    As always, there’s a chart. The International Council on Clean Transportation* has put together a handy graph comparing the new U.S. standards to those in other countries. On paper, at least the Obama administration’s new rules don’t look quite as ambitious.
    Japan and the European Union have higher targets in place.
    China, meanwhile, has also proposed stricter standards, although they haven’t been enacted yet:

    Another fatal sign is that affluent Norway with the equivalent of an urban area population of 5.2 million people, accounts for 30% of all EVs driven in Europe.

    This is nonsense! It reflects that Norway has the green electricity to power electric vehicles, while other countries still have this capacity under development.



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  • Another fatal sign is that affluent Norway with the equivalent of an urban area population of 5.2 million people, accounts for 30% of all EVs driven in Europe. >

    It’s a pity I can’t post photographs here. When touring Oslo, I notice what looked like hundreds of parking meters all over the city. But they had cables attached to the cars. Hundreds of electric cars. I approached a local who explained, that if you have an electric car, you can drive it into the city and park all day for free and get the car charged at the same time for free. FREE. And the electricity for this is all from hydro carbon free sources.

    This is the template for the rest of the world. No wonder Norway has 30% of all EV vehicles in Europe. They have these vehicles because of informed and enlighten politicians who can see further over the horizon than the next share dividend cheque.



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  • Alan4: In the mean time progress has been made increases in the efficiency of carbon fuelled vehicles to improve mpg. and reduce the pollution.…From the linked article.

    What makes these [mpg chart]comparisons tricky, however, is that the official targets don’t always do a good job telling us what sort of mileage cars are actually getting on the road. One large recent study, for instance, found that the average German passenger car is about 21 percent less fuel-efficient than the dealer’s brochure claims.

    This is a problem in the United States, as well. All the new cars and light trucks sold in 2025 won’t actually average 54.5 miles per gallon. They’ll almost certainly get far less than that. That’s because the tests used to measure official fuel economy standards—which basically involve running cars on a giant treadmill—don’t always do a great job of replicating real-world conditions. The Union of Concerned Scientists has a more detailed brief (pdf) on this, noting that the actual fuel economy for new U.S. vehicles in 2025 will probably be around 35.4 miles per gallon.

    So how will U.S. automakers meet these stricter standards, anyway? A recent report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicted that car manufacturers will largely get there by ramping up the number of microhybrids, “which utilize start-stop technology to allow the battery to power accessories while the vehicle is stopped, enabling the engine to be automatically shut down.” Plug-in electric cars will also get more popular, but EIA doesn’t expect them to dominate. For the near term, microhybrids are the future.

    A perennial problem with judging EPA “official” fuel efficiency for a given vehicle is what amounts to officially sanctioned lying about how many miles to the gallon the buyer is actually going to get driving largely on her city roads. Excepting hybrids and teenie-weenie dwarf cars, I doubt if any new car gets 30 mpg here in the states including compacts. High diesel use in Europe greatly improves on this figure.

    David R Allen: No wonder Norway has 30% of all EV vehicles in Europe. They have these vehicles because of informed and enlighten politicians who can see further over the horizon than the next share dividend cheque.

    From the CIA World Factbook: The country is richly endowed with natural resources in addition to oil and gas, including hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals. The government manages the country’s petroleum resources through extensive regulation. The petroleum sector provides about 9% of jobs, 15% of GDP, and 39% of exports, according to official national estimates. Norway is one of the world’s leading petroleum exporters, though oil production in 2015 was close to 50% below its peak in 2000; annual gas production, conversely, more than doubled over the same time period.
    In anticipation of eventual declines in oil and gas production, Norway saves state revenue from petroleum sector activities in the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, valued at over $800 billion as of early 2016. The government allows itself to use up to 4% of the fund’s value, its annual expected real rate of return, to help balance the federal budget each year. After solid GDP growth in 2004-07, the economy slowed in 2008, and contracted in 2009, before returning to modest, positive growth from 2010 to 2015.

    Bankrolling the Norwegian affluent standard of living and green lifestyle are the proceeds from petroleum and natural gas exports. (Norway has good government because the country benefits from an homogeneous, highly educated population with almost zero growth and virtually no immigrant disruptions establishing peer-consensus solidarity with a social welfare contract. 5.2 million people constitute a tiny national administrative unit that facilitates efficient governance, enforcement of the laws, and the equitable distribution of wealth. Petroleum derived revenues guarantee generous secure pensions in old age.)



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  • Melvin #13
    Nov 8, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Yes some of the MPG claims are exaggerated, but the proportionate differences between countries and the differences between electric and carbon powered vehicles remain, despite some inaccuracies.

    In anticipation of eventual declines in oil and gas production, Norway saves state revenue from petroleum sector activities in the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, valued at over $800 billion as of early 2016.

    Again – Norway has been and still is, an oil producer, but is investing the profits from this, in changing over to green systems as it plans to run down oil production.

    Just because major changes do not happen in five minutes, does not mean that they are not in progress towards stated goals.

    Of course changing to electric transport will not reduce oil production to zero! Oil and gas are required to manufacture fertilizers and plastics.

    http://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/5-Industries-Worried-About-Peak-Oil.html

    Fertilizer may only account for 20% of energy use but it is arguably agriculture’s most important component, after water. The most common chemical mixture for fertilizers, known as the Haber-Bosch, mixes nitrogen with hydrogen to form ammonia, with the hydrogen mostly being extracted from oil. This would seem to indicate the end for such fertilizers once oil resources begin to run out. Thankfully, there is an ongoing debate about how bad this would be. Fertilizer composition has shifted toward using natural gas, with methane used instead of hydrogen.

    In 2011, 2.7% of total petroleum consumption in the U.S. went into the making of plastics. However, this represented liquid petroleum gases and natural gas liquids since the U.S. no longer makes use of crude oil for plastics manufacturing. The same is not true in other countries where oil and gas alike are used for the fabrication of “nurdles”, made out of polystyrene.
    These small pellets are a form of pre-production plastic that are made in their millions (27 million made in the U.S. annually alone) before being carted off to numerous factories for molding into plastic parts.
    Daily objects made from nurdles include plastic bottles, jars, cling film, and food containers.
    While environmentalists have advocated the end of nurdles and of oil use in plastic making, due to the environmental damage this can cause, another reason is that 3 to 4 percent of global oil production goes into plastics manufacturing.

    So even if carbon burning vehicles are replaced by electric ones, the oil and gas is going to be required for plastic components, insulation on wiring etc.

    It therefore makes sense to conserve the oil supplies for future supplies of plastics and fertilisers, rather than burning it to pollute the atmosphere.



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  • Melvin #7
    Nov 6, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    How will developing poor nations react when the U.S., China, and the European Union start chiding them for failing to reach their puny cutback targets as they achieve rapid economic growth – increases in production, consumption and fossil fuel use gradually overcoming wretched standards of living?

    You really do like making up unnecessary requirements for the world to to use obsolete polluting fossil fuels to solve its energy problems!

    I think this answers your question:-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-38028130

    World’s poorest countries to aim for 100% green energy

    Representatives from 47 of the world’s most disadvantaged nations have pledged to generate all their future energy needs from renewables.

    Members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum issued their statement on the last day of the Marrakech climate conference.

    Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Haiti, among others, say they will update their national plans on cutting carbon before 2020.

    Delegates here welcomed the move, saying it was “inspirational”.

    But in an effort to show that even the world’s poorest countries are committed to dealing with global warming, the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) members have issued a promise to fully green their economies between 2030 and 2050.

    Termed the Marrakech Vision, the plan promises that the 47 members will: “strive to meet 100% domestic renewable energy production as rapidly as possible, while working to end energy poverty and protect water and food security, taking into consideration national circumstances”.

    The poor nations don’t want it, don’t need it, and can go directly to using modern clean energy sources for all their new developments!



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