Graph of the Day: Greenhouse emissions explained in 7 balloons

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They may not look threatening, but these balloons represent the majority of positive climate forcings – that is, they’re the major causes of climate change.

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Shrink That Footprint


In 2010 human activity caused 50 Gt CO2e of greenhouse gas emissions.

These emissions were 76% carbon dioxide (CO2), 16% methane (CH4), 8% nitrous oxide (N20) and 2% F-gases.

The big terrestrial emitters were China (23%), the USA (14%), Europe (10%), India (5%) and Russia (5%).

And the primary sources of emissions were energy (35%), industry (18%), transport (13%), agriculture (11%), forestry (11%), buildings (8%) and waste (4%).

The sources are explained in more detail in the balloons above, which technically shouldn’t float so well ;-) .  These balloons don’t look very threatening, but they represent the large majority of positive climate forcings.

Which in English means they are major causes of climate change.

Check out our new eBook for ideas that will deflate your balloon.

This article was originally published on Shrink That Footprint. Reproduced with permission

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  1. derekbolton 5 years ago

    It is misleading to show such a simple comparison between organic and inorganic emissions.
    1t of CO2 from a forest fire will be reabsorbed as the forest regrows, whereas 1t from fossil fuel combustion is an addition to the total biospheric pool (from which it takes millennia to be resequestrated). Thus, a single release of 1t CO2 from coal is like 1t from forest fires every 30 years for a few thousand years.
    Directly comparing organic and inorganic methane is arguably fairer. Both convert to CO2 in about 10 years, and it’s the time spent as methane that does the damage in the short term. Over a century or three, however, the same incomparability arises. Note that this means collecting and burning wood which would otherwise have decayed reduces effective emissions, but there would be adverse consequences for many species.

  2. Terry J Wall 5 years ago

    Would it be fair to say that the world has reached a point where we might have to modify our standards of protection of biodiversity? After all we are also a species that is under extreme survival stress, just as much as some critters. Don’t choke cause there is more.

    Surely the careful selective removal of some mature trees and their conversion to biochar, would make more sense than leaving them all to eventually lie on the forest floor where they might one day become a home for the above mentioned critters? 🙂

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