Air quality forecast to get worse until 2060 – then improve

Air quality forecast to get worse until 2060 – then improve | 03/06/2013
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Every year, large amounts of man-made (anthropogenic) greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and other, more deadly gases, are added to the Earth’s atmosphere

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Most of the world’s energy supply is fossil fuel based (86.2%). However, recent successes in renewable energy foretell a ‘cleaner’ future energy mix. Image courtesy of:

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, mankind has been adding evermore CO2, coal soot, wood smoke, and other airborne emissions to the atmosphere. But in recent decades have we been adding more greenhouse gases to the planet’s natural systems than they can absorb.

For example, last year, human beings contributed a total of 37 Gigatons of CO2 (and CO2 equivalent) gases to the atmosphere.

Less than half of this total was absorbed by what is termed ‘The Commons’ – which is manifested in this case, as the combined ability of the world’s oceans, forests and grasslands to absorb those emissions.

In brief, ocean plankton, the world’s forests, and grasslands, take in CO2 – and produce life-giving oxygen in return. All the world’s ocean plankton, the millions of square miles of forests and grasslands combined, remove less than 18 Gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year.

Next year, we will contribute 38 Gigatons of CO2 and equivalent gases to the Earth’s atmosphere, and in 2015 we will contribute even more CO2 to the atmosphere. In 2016, and 2017, humans are projected to add even more CO2 to the air blanket surrounding the Earth.

Soon enough, ‘the commons’ will only be absorbing a third of all man-made CO2 production.

Which is why we have global warming and the negative consequences associated with global warming.

by Garrett Hardin

The tragedy of the commons is a dilemma arising from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest for this to happen.

This dilemma was first described in an influential article titled “The Tragedy of the Commons,” written by Garrett Hardin and first published in the journal Science in 1968.” — Princeton University

The present upward trend of CO2 production is expected to continue until 2060, when anthropogenic global CO2 levels will begin to fall dramatically according to the world’s major energy companies — which have predicted that solar, wind and other renewable energy will take the place of oil and gas.

The present renewable energy production is small when measured against the total amount of conventional energy. One bright spot, is that half of all new electrical energy production comes from renewable energy. And, due to aggressive clean air regulations in countries around the world (Denmark, Germany, the U.S., Japan, and others) soon, more of the world’s new or under construction, energy power plants will be powered by renewable energy.

Some may think that we are putting ‘too much effort’ into the change-up to renewable energy, but they must remember that CO2 lingers for up to 100 years in the atmosphere — while some toxic airborne pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, H2S, and CFC’s, stay in the atmosphere for up to 50,000 years.


Much of the CO2 and other, much longer-lived toxic gases produced during the Second World War era, are still with us — we are breathing it now and will be for some time to come.

Think about all those Gigatons of as yet unabsorbed greenhouse gases which have been piling-up — some of which last for 100 years, while other greenhouse gases last up to 50,000 years.

And we keep adding to it. Tick, tick, tick…