Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

And You Think the Oil Spill is Bad?

with 21 comments

The latest estimate of the amount of oil being spilled per day in the Gulf of Mexico is 40,000 barrels per day.  This is an epic disaster that we are all angry and saddened by.  We should be!  Many lives have been upended by the economic hardship that the spill has caused to Gulf Coast residents and marine and coastal ecosystems have been damaged for decades.

We should be angrier and sadder by our everyday carbon emissions, but we are not.  We are not because most of us do not understand the scale of carbon emissions nor can we see any immediate negative effects. 

Oil washing ashore and coating wildlife is highly visible much like a large, fresh cut on one’s body.  However, CO2 emissions are like a hidden cancer that is eating a person away slowly and inexorably.  Because it may not have any visible signs early on, it is easy to be blind to the problem.  The cut will heal in time but the cancer grows worse and worse left untreated.  In time, even treatment may not fix the problem.  Early detection and early mitigation are the only solutions.

The amount of CO2 that is emitted globally each day that remains in the air is equivalent to almost 8,000 Gulf oil spills each day!

So how much does a barrel of oil weigh?  From Wiki:

Texas Crude Oil Density = 873 kg / cubic meter

1 cubic meter = 264.172 gallons

1 barrel of oil = 42 gallons

42 gallons * (1 cubic meter / 264.172 gallons) = .15898 cubic meters / barrel

.15808 cubic meters / barrel * (873 kg /cubic meter) = 138.8 kg / barrel of oil

Each barrel spilled adds 138.8 Kg (0.1388 metric tons) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  Each day 5552 metric tons of oil are released into the Gulf.

In the past few years humans are adding CO2 at a rate of nearly 2 ppm per year which is equivalent to 15.6 Gt (billion tons) CO2 per year. (About half of the CO2 emitted is removed by natural sinks such as the oceans, plants, and soil.  The amount that remains in the air is listed in parts per million or ppm.)

15,600,000,000 tons CO2 per year / 365 days / 5552 metric tons oil per day = 7,698 oil spills per day.

The amount of CO2 emitted EACH DAY that remains in the air is comparable to almost 8,000 Gulf Oil Spills EACH DAY!

The planet (air and oceans) has cancer.  That cancer is human-induced climate change (global warming).  The doctors have detected the cancer.  The doctors in this case are just about every scientist working in fields related to climate change.  The experts tell us the cure is to dramatically reduce carbon emissions.  These experts also tell us that we may not be able to stop this cancer if we delay much longer.  (Some say it is too late already.)

BP has set aside $20 billion for the cleanup.  Some estimates are that the total cost will reach $100 billion.  Sadly, $100 billion is pennies in a bucket to the many trillions of dollars that global warming will cause the world this century – not to mention that mass human suffering and loss of wildlife.

I hope you are very angry and very sad.

 

Note: Thanks to David at Realclimate.org for doing something similar before this post.

Disclaimer: In no way am I minimizing the huge disaster that is the BP Gulf oil spill.  This post is an attempt to expose a much greater long-term threat that we face due to massive GHG emissions every day.  Furthermore, my use of the cancer analogy is not meant to offend those that have struggled with this awful disease.  My family has struggled so I understand the hardships families face.  The cancer analogy is understandable and conveys the grave danger associated with not dealing with a serious threat when first detected.

Update (09/01/2011):  About half of the CO2 emitted is removed by natural sinks such as the oceans, plants, and soil.  The amount that remains in the air is listed in parts per million (ppm).  We emit about 16,000 Gulf oil spills worth of CO2 each day but only 8,000 remain in the air as an average.

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Written by Scott Mandia

June 17, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

21 Responses

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  1. Scott,
    Although I’ve been aware of what’s going on and much concerned about the world my grandchildren will inherit, this is truly sobering.

    Mike Gerien

    June 17, 2010 at 9:29 pm

  2. I am a survivor of a life-threatening cancer, and I frequently use this analogy to speak about climate change. Here is one example in which I draw a parallel between receiving my diagnosis and the options we collectively have after receiving our collective diagnosis.

    Thanks for this post. Keep them coming.

    Byron Smith

    June 18, 2010 at 5:01 am

    • Byron, I have linked to that post of yours on more than one occasion when somebody does not think my cancer analogy is appropriate. It has been very helpful.

      Scott Mandia

      June 18, 2010 at 5:59 am

      • Thanks! And your calculations comparing the oil pollution to the carbon dioxide issue are another very useful shorthand for helping people “get” it. I will be using this comparison more in future.

        Byron Smith

        June 18, 2010 at 6:32 am

  3. You can also put the comparison in another way.

    “That’s some big oil leak. If they only captured that oil it would solve America’s need to import oil!”.

    “Sorry to disappoint, but the oil leaking into the gulf is only 0.25% of US oil consumption – and 0.4% of US oil imports. It might look like a lot – and indeed it is a lot – but it’s only a “drop in the ocean” of our total oil addiction.”

    William T

    June 19, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    • Good point! Another good point is that almost 50% of our national trade deficit is from importing oil. Worse, US taxpayers subsidize the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $80 billion. Oil is ruining the economy yet there are those that think getting off the oil addiction will hurt the economy. Strange logic.

      Scott Mandia

      June 19, 2010 at 10:08 pm

  4. Scott:

    Saw your posts with the BP Oilcano spill comparisons to CO2 emissions over on RC – many thanks! Have shared them with several denialist and skeptic friends alike.

    I have used many of your pages to combat the Big Oil enablers I know, with great effect; thanks again for your labors!

    Byron Smith’s story is both a sobering tale of combating and overcoming the adversity of cancer and a compelling & wonderfully wrought testimonial to convict God’s children of the need for better stewardship of that which was entrusted to them. Having just lost a family member dear to me to cancer just a couple of months ago, I will be using Byron’s link as well, since he was kind enough to share it.

    Cheers,

    Daniel the Yooper

    Mandia: I am glad that you find my materials useful.

    Daniel the Yooper

    June 19, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    • I’m also glad that you liked my story. A small point – I don’t consider myself to have “overcome” cancer. It is just being held at bay for a while.

      I like your phrase “Big Oil enablers”. I think I will also use that.

      Byron Smith

      June 21, 2010 at 6:50 am

  5. [...] á degi hverjum… Þessi útreikningur svarar til þess útreiknings sem er gerður hér. Á RealClimate nefna þeir töluna 5.000 í þessu sambandi, en þeir gáfu ekki upp [...]

  6. [...] The atmospheric content of the global warming gas carbon dioxide increased by just under 3 ppm (parts per million).  At first glance that may sound like a small amount but it represents and increase of 23 billion tons of CO2 over the past year.  To put that in perspective, if CO2 were oil, an increase of 3 ppm is the same as 12,000 Gulf Oil Spills per day!  Yes, PER DAY.  See the calculation in a previous blog post. [...]

  7. [...] by human activities, primarily from burning fossil fuels, is equal to the amount of oil spilled by 8,000 Gulf Oil Spills per day.)  Virtually every publishing scientist and all international science academies agree on [...]

  8. [...] by human activities, primarily from burning fossil fuels, is equal to the amount of oil spilled by 8,000 Gulf Oil Spills per day.)  Virtually every publishing scientist and all international science academies agree on [...]

  9. [...] are warming the planet by dumping too much carbon into the air and [...]

  10. [...] scientist and scientific body agrees that the planet is warming, and the primary cause is the massive emission of the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide.  This overwhelming consensus is driven by the multiple [...]

  11. [...] by human activities, primarily from burning fossil fuels, is equal to the amount of oil spilled by 8,000 Gulf Oil Spills per day.) Virtually every publishing scientist and all international science academies [...]

  12. [...] amount of CO2 emitted by humans each day is comparable to almost 8,000 Gulf Oil Spills (in weight)! Spread The [...]

  13. [...] no GCRs, the CO2 that we keep pumping into the air everyday traps heat and that CO2 is not going to go away for a very long time. Eco World Content From [...]

  14. [...] of CO2 in the air due to human emissions has averaged about 2 ppm. To put that into perspective, the amount of CO2 that is emitted globally each day that remains in the air is equivalent to almost … 8,000 Gulf Oil Spills Per [...]

  15. [...] And You Think the Oil Spill is Bad? « Global Warming: Man or Myth? [...]

  16. [...] Last year humans emitted a record 30 billion metric tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the air.  For perspective, that is equivalent to the weight of 15,000 Gulf Oil Spills EVERY DAY. [...]

  17. [...] into the atmosphere, a record. For perspective, our emissions from fossil fuels are equivalent to 15,000 Gulf oil spills every single day. The heat trapped by this gas is warming the planet (oceans, surface, ice, and air) and is [...]


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