Monday, August 18, 2008

Big Picture Facts

The legal literature on climate change tends to focus on particular issues, and only rarely reads the big picture facts that drive the issue.  A recent article in The New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert reported these key facts:

"This year, the world is expected to burn through some thirty-one billion barrels of oil, six billion tons of coal, and a hundred trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  The combustion of these fossil fuels will produce, in aggregate, some four hundred quadrillion B.T.U.s of energy.  It will also yield around thirty billion tons of carbon dioxide.  Next year, global consumption of fossil fuels is expected to grow by about two percent, meaning that emissions will rise by more than half a billion tons, and the following year consumption is expected to grow by another two percent.  

"When carbon dioxide is released into the air, about a third ends up, in relatively short order, in the oceans. . . . A quarter is absorbed by terrestrial ecosystems . . . and the rest remains in the atmosphere. . . ."