In 2010, we emitted 49 gigatons of CO2-e100 (Source). Averaged over the year's 32 million seconds, this amounted to roughly 1500 tons of CO2-e100 released per second. That's a lot. Because your monkey brain is ill-equipped to understand just how much this is, I've created a few tools to help you visualize these amounts. Starting with the most abstract, each of the following bubbles represents 100 tons of CO2-e100 emissions a second.
It's still a little abstract though. How much are 1500 tons, really? For reference, consider a fleet of semi-trucks, each of which typically has a maximum allowed weight of up to 40 metric tons. Rounding up, this comes out to 40 trucks-worth of emissions per second!
If you take an average semi to be 15m in length, we could fill an 8-lane highway with back-to-back, fully-loaded semis and let them drive at 210 km/h (that's 130 mph for you imperial folk), to capture the full scale of carbon emissions. Starting to grasp how much this is? In fact, so far we've looked at just the mass! CO2 is a gas, which means it's volume be quite a lot bigger than the total volume occupied by these semis.
At 1 atm of pressure and 300K, 1500 tons of CO2 take up about 750 cubic meters. In terms of hot air balloons, that looks something like this:
If you've never seen a hot-air balloon in-person (I haven't), note that there are 2 people in the basket (this is about to scale with the semis above). Hot air balloons are big.
We can start to grasp the scale of emissions, but we haven't yet looked at the actual impacts of these emissions. Let's consider melting first. Each metric ton of CO2 emissions melts around 3±0.3 tons of ice (Source). That means we are melting 4,500 tons of ice per second (that's equivalent to 120 of the semis above). That is absolutely insane.
Polar bear for scale
I'd like to add visualizations of other impacts (like future crop failtures, forest fires, drought incidence, etc.), but I was a bit too optimistic aboutt how easy it would be to find clear estimates for the effect of GHG emissions on these kinds of impact. If you have any suggestions, please send me an email, and I'll try to incorporate your feedback.
My next project will be to trace the origins of these emissions to the sectors responsible. This will serve as a starting point for assessing the impact of different interventions. Thanks for visiting, and come back soon to check out the progress.