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Carbon Delay

The Carbon Delay is allowing our civilization to move forward on the same trajectory we’ve been on for the past 100 years, seemingly oblivious to what the real, and irreversible, impact of climate change will be.

The Carbon Delay is the time between the combustion of fossil fuels, and the release of CO2, at ground level, and before the CO2 percolates up into the troposphere where it traps thermal energy. This time period, while not exact, is measured in decades, not weeks. There are two ways to visualize the Carbon Delay using verifiable numbers.

  1. Prior to the industrial Revolution the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was approximately 285 ppm. In 2019 the concentration, as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory, 13,700’, was 415 ppm. That’s a 46% increase in 290 years. During that same time period the earth’s temperature has increased only 4%, from 56° F to 58° F.  Since it is the carbon in CO2 that is the main element needed to warm the atmosphere, there must be a reason for this disparity. The reason is the Carbon Delay.
  2. In the 1950s our civilization released about 6 GtCO2 (giga tons of Carbon) at ground level every year. At that time the rate of increase of CO2 into the atmosphere, as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory, 13,700′, was .7 ppm/yr. Today we release about 36 GtCO2 at ground level, and increase of six times more than in 1950, but the consentration of CO2 at 13,700′ only increased three fold to 2.1 ppm. The difference between a 6 fold increased in carbon released, and a 3 fold increase in carbon measured in the atmosphere, is another measure of the Carbon Delay.

The ppm estimates shown in the figure below have been scientifically determined and therefore there is little room for debate. But there are different estimates available for the total amount of carbon released at ground level. The figures used below are the most conservative estimates currently available.

While the numbers in this calculation are known with a high level of confidence, no one knows for certain how long it takes for CO2 to get all the way into the troposphere. The best estimates range from 20 to 40 years.

What we do know for certain is when the earth had the right Carbon Ratio the earth cooled down, the weather became less extreme and more predictable. This allowed agriculture, and our civilization, to evolve. This can be visualized in the figure below.

Common sense tells us that, if mankind continues to take fossil fuels out of the earth, and put the carbon back in the atmosphere, the earth will again heat up to the point where we will no longer be able to have agriculture – at least not on an industrial scale. This can be seen in the figure below. What cannot be seen in this figure is what will inevitablly result from the decades-long Carbon Delay.

This decades long Carbon Delay means the increased frequency and severity of the weather we are experiencing today is the result of CO2 released at ground level decades ago. This also means that when mankind is finally able to stop putting carbon back in the atmosphere, the earth’s temperature will continue to increase for the same amount of time as the Carbon Delay.

We will get over the Corvid-19 virus and life will move on. We cannot, however, stop or reverse climate change. We must now learn to adapt. In order to adapt, we must first acknowledge the decades long delay that is currently disguising climate change. The only way to do that will be to tell the wider world the truth about what is happening. One of the best way to do that is with the Earth Ship Program.