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Global Carbon Budget

The issue of climate change of late has been in the news as it has become a hot topic in local, national or international forums. Scientific evidence gives us a chilling scenario of climate related upheavals, should we persist in doing harm to our environment. Understanding the global carbon budget is a good start, because this will graph in detail how much carbon dioxide that can be released to the atmosphere without altering the balance of the carbon cycle.


Because of the excessive use of fossil fuels to feed our industries, we have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Trying to figure out where carbon dioxide emissions end up isn't so hard, especially since there are only three places where that it can possibly go including the atmosphere, the oceans and over land (plants and soil). As more carbon dioxide is fueled into the atmosphere, how will this change the related carbon cycle as the earth's temperature continues to rise?

The natural functions of the earth have been severely weakened as oceans have turned acidic, reducing its capacity to absorb more carbon dioxide. The reduced covering of forests likewise hinders massive absorption of CO2 and the atmosphere is beset with dangerous levels of greenhouse gasses, making the earth more receptive to undue climatic change.

What is the world's carbon budget?

If our carbon dioxide emission could not be controlled, the earth's ecosystem will initially suffer for it may not be able to adapt to its rapidly changing environment. In order for our ecosystem to survive, industrialized nations must reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel related combustion to 75-percent below current levels before 2030.

Because of this grave threat, the G8 nations (the most fossil-fuel intensive economies) from which the United States is a part of, needs to find ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and put ourselves and others on a budget.

An international convention is necessary to draw the carbon budget on greenhouse gas emissions that preclude climatic change. The convention should adhere to guidelines based on recent data that warming must be limited to 0.1 degrees centigrade per decade. This may not seem substantial but it is deemed 10 to 20 times greater than the average rate of change that typifies transition from the ice age to warmer periods.

Only with this proposed carbon budget can the ecosystem be sustained, without risking death to mature trees. The last time the earth experienced a climatic change that was 2 degrees centigrade warmer was 125,000 years ago, when humans were still hunters and gatherers and had not yet learned the methods of agriculture.

Based on this constraint, the world must live within a carbon budget of around 300 billion tons or 50 years of current carbon dioxide emissions. Human activities account for about 60-percent of total carbon dioxide emissions. To help curb further buildup of greenhouse gases, emissions must also be reduced by 25-percent based on current levels.

How can we allocate a carbon budget between nations?

Conformance to an allocated carbon budget is the key to our continued survival. Thus, nations should agree, through proper diplomatic ties, on doable carbon caps, particularly between industrialized and developing countries. If these negotiations push through, then a dramatic phase out is not necessary, because the reduced emission process has started, without sacrificing economic competitiveness. In fact, many jobs will be created in helping nations adhere to their carbon budgets including jobs in carbon sequestration, alternative fuels and alternative and renewable energy industries.

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