Power plants pol­lute more than vol­ca­noes: Study

Edmonton Sun - - COFFEE BREAK - ERiC ROs­tOn Bloomberg

Cli­mate change isn't all that dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand. A Bri­tish sci­en­tist proved shortly be­fore the Amer­i­can civil war that car­bon diox­ide ab­sorbs heat, and a Swedish chemist doo­dled out the first equa­tions in­volv­ing fos­sil­fuel emis­sions be­fore the 20th cen­tury even be­gan.

What was dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate out, how­ever, was iden­ti­fy­ing the hu­man­driven sig­nal within the noise of the vast, messy, and nat­u­ral cli­mate sys­tem.

A three-year-old NASA mis­sion has given re­searchers a huge hand in track­ing how CO2 pours out of in­dus­trial sources, in and out of land, seas, and the at­mos­phere. The net pic­ture is a ge­o­log­i­cally abrupt flush­ing out, by burn­ing and warm­ing, of car­bon that's been trapped un­der­ground for up to many mil­lions of years.

The in­stru­ments on OCO-2 an­a­lyze the at­mos­phere from an al­ti­tude of about 440 miles.

Cities are re­spon­si­ble for more than 70 per­cent of hu­man­ity's CO2 emis­sions. The satel­lite, how­ever, not only dis­cerns pol­lu­tion dif­fer­ences between cities and ru­ral ar­eas.

OCO-2 car­bon-mapped the Ya­sur vol­cano in the is­land na­tion of Van­u­atu, and dis­cov­ered that, by com­par­i­son, power plants in many cases are larger sources of CO2 than pas­sive vol­ca­noes.

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