MAC: Mines and Communities

Carbon Alarm

Published by MAC on 2006-05-06

Carbon Alarm

6th May 2006

All current strategies for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions (including selling carbon credits - a market itself starting to fail) aren't working. Although methane emissions (11,.700 times more potent than CO2) are being held "steady", plans to expand coal mining, in countries such as India, Colombia, Bangladesh and Venezuela, may jeopardise even this modest, and dubious, achievement. Coal mines, along with waste landfills and ruminants, are the largest emitters of methane. The World Bank and some companies (notably BHPBilliton) plan to capture methane from coal, and use it as a source of energy, but they are key culprits in promoting mining of the black stuff.

NOAA: Global Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Rose in 2005


1st May 2006

Levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmsphere have increased over the past 12 months relative to a 1990 benchmark, according to the Annual Greenhouse Gas Index issed today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide traps the Sun's heat close to the Earth, causing the global temperature to rise.

The increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) has been somewhat offset by the leveling off of concentrations of another greenhouse gas, methane, the agency said.

Another positive result is the fact that there has also been a decline in two chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), powerful greenhouse gases that also contribute to causing the Antarctic ozone hole.

Overall, NOAA said, the Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI) shows a continuing, steady rise in the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, although the constant or declining growth rates of methane and CFCs have slightly slowed the overall growth rate of the index.

"We have a better understanding of the dynamics of Earth's climate through our extensive, high quality and sustained observations," said NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher.

"NOAA adds operational value to climate research by observing
and quantifying the changes that are occurring around us, and reporting their effects," he said.

While the index has increased in every year since NOAA's global measurements began in 1979, the increase during 2005 was 1.25 percent, which is relatively low, the agency said.

The main source of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas - in vehicles, for home heating and in industry.

In the United States, the largest methane emissions come from the decomposition of wastes in landfills, ruminant digestion and manure management associated with domestic livestock, natural gas and oil systems, and coal mining.

The main sources of chlorofluorocarbons are refrigeration systems, both stationary and mobile.

NOAA's Annual Greenhouse Gas Index is referenced to a baseline value of 1.00 for the greenhouse gas levels that were present in the atmosphere in 1990.

The value of the AGGI for 2005 is 1.215. This reflects a continuing upward trend in the accumulation of greenhouse gases, as well as the change in the amount of radiative forcing.

Radiative forcing indicates the balance between radiation coming into the atmosphere and radiation going out. Positive radiative forcing tends on average to warm the surface of the Earth, and negative forcing tends on average to cool the surface.

Methane concentrations have been holding relatively steady since 1990, the NOAA index shows, because an equilibrium that has been reached between sources of emission of the gas, its duration in the atmosphere and areas where it is taken out of the atmosphere.

Most of the increase in radiative forcing measured since 1990 is due to carbon dioxide, which now accounts for approximately 62 percent of the radiative forcing by all long-lived greenhouse gases.

During 2005, global CO2 increased from an average of 376.8 parts per million (ppm) to 378.9 ppm.

This increase of 2.1 ppm means that for every one million air molecules there were slightly more than two new CO2 molecules in the atmosphere. The pre-industrial CO2 level was approximately 278 ppm.

NOAA's Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, produced by the Global Monitoring Division of the Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, is a recently developed index that provides an easily understood and scientifically unambiguous point of comparison for tracking annual changes in levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

The AGGI will be included in the annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin issued by the World Meteorological Organization in November.

The AGGI is based on the analyses of atmospheric levels of all the major and minor long-lived greenhouse gases, and factors in the relative strengths of each gas in its ability to trap heat.

The gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, CFCs and the current replacements for CFCs, and have been measured since 1979 by NOAA's global sampling network.

Atmospheric greenhouse gas levels change from year to year depending on natural and human-influenced processes. The largest annual increase in the Annual Greenhouse Gas
Index, 2.8 percent, occurred between 1987 and 1988. The smallest was .81 percent from 1992 to 1993.

NOAA's network of five global baseline observatories and about 100 global cooperative sampling sites extends from the high Arctic to the South Pole. Samples also are taken at five-degree latitude intervals from three oceanic ship routes. A Baltic ferry line collects samples as it makes its daily crossing.

All samples are sent to Boulder for analysis and comparison with NOAA's world standards for the gases. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems, NOAA is working with its federal partners, 61 countries and the European Commission to develop an integrated global network of information.

ANALYSIS - CO2 Price Crash Signals Tougher EU Pollution Goals

PlanetArk UK

1st May 2006

LONDON - A price crash which this week wiped nearly 40 billion euros (US$50.19 billion) off the value of Europe's greenhouse gas trading scheme will not endanger the market but is likely to make Brussels toughen pollution targets.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions prices halved this week after several countries said they had undershot last year's pollution quotas, dampening demand for carbon credits and diluting the incentive to clean up.
The European Commission responded saying a second round of quotas, from 2008, should take into account these latest figures, signalling the need for stricter emissions limits.

Businesses included in the scheme -- Europe's main tool for meeting Kyoto Protocol targets -- had feared it would push up costs as a result of power price rises, concerns partly eased by this week's carbon price collapse.

"This (price drop) does potentially strengthen the political hand of the European Commission in relation to phase two National Allocation Plans," said Anthony Hobley, general counsel to the London-based Climate Change Capital fund, which has over US$100 million invested in carbon markets.

Already Britain has said it could increase the quotas in the second round, while Germany has said it had planned only for a tiny cut, of 1.6 percent.

But green groups saw the price fall as evidence that countries had deliberately inflated the pollution projections, to avoid potentially costly reduction.
France, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic have come in under their target.

"We've said all along that the allocations were too lax in the first round of national allocation plans, and you no longer need to take our word for it. The market has reflected that." said Greenpeace climate policy adviser Steve Sawyer. "The allocations need to be ratcheted down for these companies in the next round."


The ground-breaking EU market has made a commodity of carbon dioxide -- widely blamed for climate change -- by linking the greenhouse gas to tradeable carbon credits, making pollution a financial burden to Europe's most energy-hungry businesses.

Carbon credit prices could now plummet to as low as one or two euros, from a 31-euro high last week, traders say, depending on the full EU emissions picture that emerges in the next two weeks. A slump would persist until 2008, when the new credits are handed out, they say.

"The key unknown is whether the price signal has in fact stimulated some emissions abatement in the industry sectors or whether the lower emissions are the result of gaming the allocation process," said Abyd Karmali, UK managing director of ICF Consulting.

"Anything can happen," one trader, who declined to be named, said on Friday when referring to forthcoming data releases from countries including Britain and Germany. "(If the price collapsed) that would persist in principle in phase 1."

Participants and politicians cautioned against a panic reaction to this week's crash, citing the novelty of the scheme.

"We have seen the market inflated and we are now seeing a settling back," said Barbara Helfferich, spokeswoman for Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, on Friday.

"We need to realise this is a very young market and it is the first compliance phase. We are not surprised there are fluctuations as a market such as this one has to settle," she said.

ICF's Karmali added: "The first phase of the EU scheme was always likely to be the most volatile as price discovery takes a while to occur in such markets."

Story by Gerard Wynn and Stuart Penson


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