Startling animation reveals New York City's carbon footprint

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:

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