Global Temperature Trends
CO2 Concentration and Temperature: A Cause-and-Effect Relationship?
About CO2 Emissions Trading and Credits
We have four main goals in composing this site:
1) to find and comment on CO2 concentration trends over time (from most reliable experimental data);Carbon Dioxide Trends over Time
2) to find and comment on average global temperature trends over time;
3) to find and comment on the relationship between these two phenomena; and
4) to summarise and explain how the CO2 emissions trading will work within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol.
The cyclic variation of CO2 concentration is due to the variation in atmospheric temperature because of changing seasons (from summer to winter and back). During winter the saturation concentration in the oceans increases and hence some of the CO2 in the atmosphere dissolves in the ocean, bringing down the atmospheric concentration.
Figure 4 shows the change in temperature relative to the average of 1850-1870 for the surface temperatures and 1979-89 for the satellite temperatures.
The determination of average global temperatures is quite a complex process; these are based on meteorological data received over the Global Telecommunications System (GTS) for land areas and from an array of ships and buoys that collect sea surface temperature data. The averaging process is quite complex since the amount of data collected is massive and effort is required to ensure that the data is representative (one controversial issue is the effect of cities on regional temperatures). There is a great deal of interest in improving the temperature data collection system, because this is seen as limiting the accuracy of climatic modelling and simulation. Currently there are several initiatives in place to improve the collection of temperature data and other relevant climatic information.
Although it is well documented that global surface temperatures have been increasing, there is some doubt whether the atmospheric temperature is rising as well. This is demonstrated by the satellite data. The satellite data only spans 1979-89 and does not yet show a conclusive trend, e.g., an upward or downward change in temperature. There are a number of reasons why this data does not show a trend ranging from the data series being too short to errors associated with cyclic variations and use of new technology. This shows that there still is a lot about global climate that is unknown.
Correlations Between CO2
Concentration and Global Temperature
Is there a cause-and-effect relationship between the increasing CO2 concentration and the apparent increase in global temperatures? It can be seen in Figure 5 that the local (Antarctic) temperature change closely parallels the change in CO2 concentration over the past 160,000 years.
The IPCC have developed a model that predicts future increases in temperature
if the current trends continue. This model is dependent on a number of
assumptions concerning population and economic growth, technological changes,
energy availability and fuel use during the period 1990-2100. They showed
the results for three scenarios using different "climate sensitivities",
a low, medium and high value. The predicted increase in global temperature
over this interval is as follows:
Low: ~ 1oC
Medium: ~ 2oC
High: ~ 3.5oC.
Figure 6 is a graphical representation of the outcomes of IPCC's modelling
Greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise and the concentration of CO2 and other thermally active gases in the atmosphere is increasing, as previously illustrated. There is evidence to suggest that if emissions continue unchecked, global warming and climate change to a significant level will result. The potential consequences are very serious, from ice cap melting and sea level increases to widespread climatic change and loss of biodiversity - particularly regarding sensitive species. To attempt to exercise some control over this threat, several types of policy instruments have been offered for consideration, for example, carbon taxes, subsidies for the use of non-fossil fuels, etc. Many of these are directed toward national emissions reductions to fulfill the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. Global scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions must be the aim of policies and practices to achieve abatement of the potential impacts of global warming.
On global scale, emissions trading has been proposed to reduce CO2 emissions (and other greenhouse active gases such as CH4, etc.) to levels set by the Kyoto Protocol. For Australia the aim is to reduce output in the year 2010 to 108% of the 1990 levels. Although the details of the emissions trading scheme have not yet been finalised – a meeting in November 1998 will determine this – the proposal appears to have support.
The use of this type of scheme to reduce air pollution has already been successful, as demonstrated in the USA with SO2 emissions trading. The aim is to decide the level of emissions that ensures sustainable growth, while slowing the pollution processes. Thus, the use of emissions trading, rather than determining the final price of consumables through increased costs of production (say, by adding taxes to the costs of production), will determine the level of production by the level of pollution that a company/country will be permitted to emit.
There are two key steps in the implementation of the emissions trading
1) the level of emissions permitted for each country, and
2) the issuing of permits to each country and from there to the relevant industries.
Some companies will not need their quota of permits and would thus be able to sell or trade these unused permits to the more polluting companies. This may occur nationally, within an industrial sector, or across countries over industrial sectors.
Problems that may arise in such emissions trading scheme:
-determination of quotas for each country
-selection of industrial sectors to be included in the scheme
-infrastructure of the governing body for this scheme and the initial cost to set up the scheme
-monitoring and enforcement of emissions limits
-changes in the wealth of countries as they purchase more
-technological repercussions for countries that have little means to become more environmentally
friendly while at the same time having the means to purchase more permits
-value changes in the cost of purchasing permits as new technology creates less pollution.
There are of course more problems than those mentioned here and some are more serious than others. A common concern, voiced mainly by those who are advocates of a tax base system, is that the focus would be placed onto the obtaining and selling of credits. This will reduce emphasis on the need to develop new, cleaner technology and upon actually reducing the emissions themselves.
As with all major worldwide policy changes, the final decision will ultimately be based more on political motivation and power than upon the desire to actually protect and preserve the environment, although this may have been the initial contributing factor. It is very difficult to put into place a policy that does not further disadvantage struggling economies.
The implementation of an emissions credit system would be very politically motivated in that the effects would be not immediately felt by the consuming public (ie the voters) who are usually very quick to jump upon the environmental bandwagon but are not so quick when possible solutions will hit them directly in the hip pocket. The trading system will make the cost not so obvious as a tax base system and would give the illusion that the price of energy will not be affected.
The web sites cited here give a rundown of the driving forces behind
the decisions on new initiatives and point out not only the possible benefits
but also the probable costs and problems associated with the implementation
of a worldwide solution. The most common point made is that there
is no easy or quick solution to this global problem. This is also
pointed out by the fact that often the most attractive option to
the public and the bureaucrats is not the most economic or environmentally
The National Consumer Coalition
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The above mentioned sites provide an analysis of the proposed emissions
credit trading system and other policy instruments, either in use or proposed,
for the control of greenhouse gas emissions.
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