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Startling animation reveals New York City's carbon footprint

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A eye-opening new animation of New York City visualizes the epic scale of climate pollution coming from our lives. I highly recommend watching to the end of this three minute video to see what a single year's worth looks like:

My only quibble with this excellent animation is the choice of cool blue for the balloon colour. In my mind a glowing orange colour would better convey the global warming impact this CO2 causes. Maybe something more like this:

Most of these CO2 balloons will linger in our atmosphere for centuries. For example, some of the CO2 balloons from New York City coal burning in the 1800s are still up there. Around the clock CO2 relentlessly traps extra heat energy that would have escaped into space and instead pumps it into our weather and oceans.

As New York is discovering, all that extra heat energy will eventually come back to bite. Last year it was Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee that pounded them. This year superstorm Sandy amped up on climate steroids smashed ashore bringing up to $50 billion in damages. (see: Climate change powers "Frankenstorm" Sandy).

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo recently lamented this triple blow of extreme weather events in just two years:

"I get it, I've seen this movie three times … Climate change is real, it's here, it's going to happen again."

Mayor Bloomberg:

"In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods—something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable."

400,000 atomic bombs

Just how much heat energy are we talking about globally?

NASA climate scientist James Hansen say the current increase in global warming is "equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year. That’s how much extra energy Earth is gaining each day." Every minute another 278 atomic bombs worth of energy – more than four per second. And that is just the daily increase in our climate heating. (See: Global warming increasing by 400,000 atomic bombs every day)

100,000 times the heat

How can such a massive increase in heat energy be possible?

It turns out that each molecule of CO2 is so long-lasting, so tireless and so darn efficient at trapping heat that by the time that molecule leaves the atmosphere it will have warmed our planet 100,000 times more that the heat given off when it was first burned.

Burn a lump of coal and the global warming that results will be 100,000 times the heat the burning coal gave off. Run a hair dryer on coal-fired electricity and the CO2 will heat the planet as much as eight jumbo jet engines running for the same time. Our croplands and water supplies get blown dry as well.

CO2 molecules really are the "Energizer Bunnies" of climate heating -- the "primary control knob" for global temperatures. (see: Cooking up a dead planet)

Billions of littered plastic bags

One other way of visualizing this massive CO2 waste stream is to picture it as a pile of littered plastic shopping bags.

Both CO2 and plastic bags are fossil fuel products. Both get littered into our environment where they cause harm for decades and even centuries before they breakdown. Each balloon in that animation (tonne of CO2) can be visualized as 100,000 plastic bags (tonne of plastic bags).

It is hard for me to imagine we would tolerate an energy option that pumped out plastic bag litter at such a rate. A taxi cab litters CO2 weighing the same as two plastic bags every city block. An SUV spits out one every second on the highway. Phht, phhht, phhht. Large buildings using natural gas for heat spew a constant "ticker tape parade" worth. As this animation shows, we would all be literally buried in a metastasizing plastic bag trash pile.

It's global warming, stupid

This NYC balloon animation is just the latest example that shows that Michael Bloomberg -- independent, billionaire, mayor of America's largest city -- understands the growing menace climate change poses to our future. As the cover of his flagship magazine pointed out recently:

(6) Comments

Ron Wagner November 19th 2012 | 6:18 PM

Natural gas use is the fastest way to lower natural gas use, aslide from going without energy.

 

Natural gas is the future of energy. It is replacing dirty old coal plants, and dangerous expensive nuclear plants. It will fuel cars, vans, buses, locomotives, aircraft, ships, tractors, air conditioners, engines of all kinds. It costs far less.  It will help keep us out of more useless wars, where we shed our blood and money. It is used to make many products. It lowers CO2 emissions. Over 2,900 natural gas story links on my blog. An annotated bibliography of live links, updated daily. The big picture of natural gas.
ronwagnersrants . blogspot. com

Vivian November 22nd 2012 | 6:18 PM

I have one little quibble with this article.  New York is actually a sustainable community in terms of collective impact.  We create many efficiencies in the city.  

Indeed that we are living in an unsustainable manner, and the idea that we need to control our impact from emissions from fuel burning, methane emission, etc is relavent across the board.  No matter where we live, whether in the city or in the country we can take conscious choices that reduce our individual footprint.  

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sandcanyongal November 24th 2012 | 6:18 PM

Ron Wagner. You are dead wrong about natural gas as our future. I think you need to read and educate yourself. Between the pollutants and water contamination, more destruction of the wildlands and the dillusional thinking less pollution is acceptable while our planet's population continues to grow has us on a direct path with extinction. 

You are thinking "well, what's your answer." Well, I have some visions of recycle, remake, reuse at 90% as a goal. This is the single way to reduce deforestation, mining and drilling. Today, old batteries are maded into new batteries, tin cans made into new tin cans, etc. It's a whold new eco capitalistic society waiting to happen...minus all the heavy pollution if our brilliant college grads can develop carbon capture at the point of use.

Build houses and buildings by sustainable standards. Audubon Magazine had an article on it. http://archive.audubonmagazine.org/audubonliving/audubonliving1011.html

I still don't understand why vehicles can't get 300 mpg, except for the oil company greed, keeping progress under lock and key.

The hard reality is that we all need to get our governments honest however it needs to happen. Their ties to the rich and giant corporations has to end, plain and simple.This is the first step to make real progress in ecologizing our economy.

There's at least 100 years worth of work to clean up the mess caused by the people before us and currently. How many people would it take to clean up the Gulf ocean area and for how long??? How about identifying where all the mercury is located, find ways to capture it and clean it up so the fish we eat aren't contaminated anymore. How about cleaning up all the plastic in the ocean and algae blooms? There are easily thousands of examples on all the jobs associated with identifying and creating "sustainable" lives.

No to natural gas drilling. It's yet another case of profiteers with hats in hands before Congress or Parliament telling them that this is all there is, take it or there is absolutely no other way to solve to energy crisis. Yes to developing best of breed solutions through research and development before making any determinations and have the people in our countries vote on which solutions, if any are acceptable.

 

 

David Wilson November 26th 2012 | 8:20 PM

Even if we use NatGas for transportation, at least we have to stop burning carbon to keep warm.  Buildings use 40% of the energy in Canada and, where the electricity mix is green enough,

Ground Source Heat Pumps make sense.  It's a 30 year problem and a long term investment is needed.

Douglas Hollis January 3rd 2013 | 11:11 AM

Incredible animation, thank you.  Something similar should be produced for the annual global CO2 aggregate, maybe superimposed over the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains.  But then, would that provide sufficient scale to fit 36 billion balloons, I wonder.  

Adam Root August 23rd 2013 | 2:02 AM

Really a very suggestive post this is. I have gone through it and loved its animation work. So, as we understood here about Co2 is that to minimize it and as we all know 50% of Carbon Dioxide gas was released because of the vehicles ignition so, its better to minimize the use of vehicles and to control the level of Co2 gas in the environment. Also after having a  car we have to maintain it else it will give us more problems and also results generation of more carbon dioxide gas. So, we have to service it after particular kilometers of run and also we have to repair our cars from good Mercedes Repair Dexter MI centers whenever required to get better performance from it and for our cars smoother running. .