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Climate Change

Published on April 19th, 2015 | by James Ayre


Carbon Emissions, Climate Change, & The Various Effects — Great New Infographic

April 19th, 2015 by  

An interesting new infographic from “InformationisBeautiful” concerning carbon dioxide emissions and climate change recently came to my attention, and seemed worth sharing. The infographic goes over many, many things, including: the current rate of carbon emissions, the carbon ‘budget’ if we’re going to avoid a dangerous rise in temperature, current fossil fuel reserves, the various predicted effects of various levels of temperature rise, and a couple of other figures.


I admit to not agreeing with all of the predictions/characterizations here, though — in particular, the reference to Greece, Italy, and Spain, being deserts at a 3–4° Celsius rise irks me. That whole region had a pronouncedly different (more temperate, more humid, more mild) quality to it before being nearly completely deforested during, right before, and after the Bronze Age (very arguably in part playing into and precipitating the late Bronze Age civilizational collapse).

To make my point here — regional and micro-climates matter too, and these can be notably influenced by human behavior in direct ways. While it’s a somewhat controversial point to make, the presence of plants, forests, animals other than humans, etc — all have significant effects on the local and/or micro climate(s). While the wider climate certainly matters, specific regions can be influenced to a great degree by the specifics of that region or locality — building up and supporting the vegetation in a region (or, more likely, in specific inhabited parts) is a possibility (albeit probably a rather expensive one). I’m not at all convinced that all of Southern Europe will be abandoned to desert with a 3–4° Celsius rise in temperature. (End rant.)

Another thing that I’ll mention is that the sea level rise predictions shown in the infographic are very likely low-balling it to a great degree. I understand the primary reason for doing so (so that the predictions don’t prove false), but… sea level rise looks very likely to be far more rapid than those predictions. And perhaps more importantly, far more unpredictable — sea level rise has tended to occur in large pulses. Large increases in relatively short amounts of time are a possibility.

Also… I don’t find the 300,000 figure with regard to how long it’ll take to re-absorb all of the carbon very convincing — the negative feedback loops concerning the carbon cycle are only very poorly understood. It’s something of a crapshoot guessing how long it’ll take for our carbon emissions to “all” be sequestered.

Despite those caveats, it’s an interesting infographic — and possibly (probably?) a good means of communicating the issues to those that aren’t particularly interested in science. So feel free to spread it around!

Image Credit: David McCandless/InformationIsBeautiful

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.


    A lot of this assumes that there will be no artificial carbon sequestration in the future. The technology to do so is already being worked on and is advancing.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It would be very unwise to include artificial carbon sequestration in our calculations until it has been proven and funding has been established.


    I built my first tube AMP years ago it use helum if replace by plms fire it up with laz fly a air plane I think so.

  • RobMF

    For reference, these rates of warming are short-term, single century numbers. They assume a greater resiliency in the global carbon stores than is likely. So if we’re looking at overall, ESS, warming, you can at least double these numbers. Currently, we’ve locked in about 2.1 to 3.9 C of long term warming. At the 2C “safe” threshold, you’re looking at 4-6 C long term warming. The combined higher ranges represent 6-15 C long term warming scenarios.

    It’s also worth noting that the CO2 equivalent of all greenhouse gasses added to the atmosphere by now is in the range of 485 ppm. That includes CH4, NOx and a number of other novel gasses not in the atmosphere during previous hothouse events. Considering this range, and the likely long term warming from ESS feedbacks, full or near full Greenland melt is probably already locked in. We already see this in the current complete destabilization of glaciers at the Greenland margin. 50,000 years is far too slow an estimate. Even under current conditions, we are looking at 500 to 10,000 years depending on global carbon store response.

    Numerous climate models show Southern Europe drying out with even mild warming. Deforestation does play a roll. But what we are basically looking at is the Sahara climate shifting north even as the overall rate of evaporation increases. Concurrent increased rainfall is less helpful due to the fact that it will tend to come, more and more, as powerful deluges after long, dry periods even as the preferential precipitation band grinds northward. I suppose it’s possible the models are wrong. They have tended to leave out effects from AMOC weakening/shutdown in the North Atlantic, which will certainly make Northern Europe and the Northern Hemisphere a rather stormy place as the GIS goes down, but even under those conditions, we will probably see preferential drying. In any case, the same models have been quite correct about drying in the U.S. Southwest.

    For those of you who track climate change and are aware of the online science community, I am robertscribbler.


    • Lakota in Austin

      A most gloomy outlook, and probably a good deal more accurate than the “rosey” scenarios that have been presented by the IPCC.

  • cutter1954

    I am sure that the GOP candidates in NH currently will study this closely and suggest cogent solutions to the problem.

    • Keanwood

      Haha That made my night.

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