Carbon Emissions and the 2 Degree Threshold

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Heavy sigh. I just read an article that dampened my day – and that’s saying something considering the rainy Vancouver weather we’ve been experiencing this spring. I read that the carbon dioxide emitted by energy use hit a record high globally in 2010. After a slight dip caused by the global financial crisis in 2009, CO2 emissions are estimated to have reached 30.6 Gigatonnes. That’s a lot of tons.

While this news isn’t necessarily surprising, it is troublesome. And worrying.

You see, there was a goal set by our various global leaders at the UN climate change talks in Cancun, which was held, ironically, in 2010. That goal was to limit the rise in the global average temperature to no more than a 2°C increase by the year 2020. Breaching that threshold would greatly raise the risk of flooding, storms, rising sea levels, species extinction, and more. This is jarring considering we’re already experiencing some significant incidences of those events.

According to the International Energy Agency, in order to achieve the above-mentioned goal, we have to keep our CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere in the range of about 450 parts per million (which is where we currently stand), and we cannot have more than 32 Gigatonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere by the year 2020. In 2009, the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere were at about 29.3 Gigatonnes and they jumped to 30.6 Gigatonnes by 2010. That’s a 5% jump in about one year. Here’s the kicker, folks: Staying under the 2°C mark means that over the next 10 years the CO2 emissions in our atmosphere must rise less in total than they did between 2009 and 2010. All together now… heavy sigh.

It will be challenging, but as a species I think we could be up to the task. It’s not exactly like we have a choice, non?

One incredible hotel in Bali is definitely stepping up to this challenge. It’s the world’s first zero carbon 5-star hotel! Zero carbon! The hotel, aptly named the Bali Net Zero Hotel Resort, is powered by the sun and also features a generating solar power plant that will provide energy to the local Balinese community! It will generate close to 2.5MW of power each day, which is more than double what the hotel requires. This hotel, launched by Christine Hadiningrat in collaboration with Sauter Carbon Offset Design, is going above and beyond simply offsetting its carbon usage. The profits it makes from the sale of the extra solar power will be used to cover the cost of installing and maintaining the systems as well as potentially expanding the infrastructure to cover additional local municipality facilities. Saving the planet, supporting the local community, and a return on their investment? Can we get a round of applause for them please!

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About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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