Climate Change and CO2


Without deep cuts in CO₂ emissions, climate change cannot be stopped.



Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. Atmospheric concentrations of CO₂ are higher now than at any time in the last 650,000 years, with much of the increase in CO₂ level occurring in recent decades.



Surface temperatures in the 21st century have been notably higher than temperatures in the middle and late 20th century; nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.


As a consequence of warming, the Earth’s climate is changing. Arctic sea ice is retreating, with 2012 being a record year for summer sea ice melt. 2012 was a Goliath melt year for Greenland ice sheet, shattering previous records and threatening to raise global sea level. As oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, their acidity increases, which it has by 30% since preindustrial times and acidity will continue to grow as the oceans absorb more anthropogenic CO2. Many commercially important shellfish are vulnerable to the impacts of ocean acidification.




Image Credit: NASA

The retreat of Pedersen Glacier, Alaska. Left: summer 1917. Right: summer 2005.1917 photo captured by Louis H. Pedersen; 2005 photo taken by Bruce F. Molnia. Credit: The Glacier Photograph Collection, National Snow and Ice Data Center/World Data Center for Glaciology



Carbon dioxide is an important greenhouse gas responsible for some of these changes. Nine out of every ten tons of carbon released into the atmosphere comes from burning fossil fuels.  Between 2007-2035, the US Energy Information projects that the amount of fossil fuel emitted will increase by 50%, with most of the increase occurring in developing nations.




 Projected Global Carbon Emissions



With the projected growth, by 2035 carbon releases from fossil fuel will reach 11.5 billion tons a year of carbon, nearly twice as much as the ocean and biosphere can absorb. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will keep global temperatures elevated for hundreds, and even thousands, of years.







                                World energy consumption outlook.  Source: WEO 2012   


These facts emphasize need for widespread deployment of carbon capture and sequestration technologies. Without widespread use of CCS technology, the worst aspects of climate change like global are imminent.  Even with massive increases in low-carbon technologies, such renewables and nuclear technology, fossil fuel growth will be staggering. Up to 90% of the carbon emissions from power plant and other large industrial sources can be captured and isolated from the atmosphere using CCS.




CATF is working to:

  • Advance low-carbon technologies through global business partnerships and policy
  • Promote technology innovation that reduces CCS costs
  • Develop incentives and mandates to promote CCS
  • Support projects that lower the carbon emissions of power plants