Pandemic has created a shortage in CO2, needed for water supply and to produce fresh food, preserved food and beverages

Food production and water processing facilities are warning that they won't be able to meet demand in the coming months. Why not? Because they are not getting sufficient carbon dioxide, which is used in their production processes. Why isn't there enough carbon dioxide? Because carbon dioxide manufacturers rely on ethanol production to collect the gas and ethanol production has decreased. Why has ethanol production decreased? Two reasons. Ethanol production was already ramping down because Russia and Saudi Arabia were flooding the market with inexpensive gasoline. And then people stop driving because of the coronavirus pandemic and ethanol production decreased even more.

This Guardian article reports that CO2 production could decline by as much as 2/3 in the coming months, and food and beverage manufacturers and water processing facilities are concerned:

[CEO of the Compressed Gas Association (CGA), Rich] Gottwald, along with a number of associations representing food and beverage industries, which together use 77% of food-grade CO2, issued a joint warning to the federal government about the shortage.

In an open letter to the vice-president, Mike Pence, the coalition warns: “Preliminary data show that production of CO2 has decreased by approximately 20%, and experts predict that CO2 production may be reduced by 50% by mid-April.”

It continues: “A shortage in CO2 would impact the US availability of fresh food, preserved food and beverages, including beer production.”

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CO2 in Antarctica reaches 400 PPM for first time in 4 million years

Earth's most remote continent finally caught up with its more populated counterparts. “Carbon dioxide has been steadily rising since the start of the Industrial Revolution, setting a new high year after year,” writes Brian Kahn at Climate Central. “There’s a notable new entry to the record books. The last station on Earth without a 400 parts per million (ppm) reading has reached it.” Read the rest

Animation of atmospheric carbon dioxide

Check out A Year In The Life of Earth's CO2, a visualization of greenhouse gases swirling in the atmosphere. A voice-over explains what you're seeing as the months roll by, such as summer carbon monoxide blooms in the southern hemisphere. Tip: change the projection by dragging the map. Read the rest

400 ppm carbon dioxide? In my atmosphere?

It's true, at least for today. Although the real concern in climate science is average concentrations of carbon dioxide over much longer periods of time, surpassing the 400 ppm mark, even for a day, is a historic milestone. 400 ppm was once a level we talked about avoiding altogether through mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Now, it's a reminder that we're not really doing anything to circumvent the steady increase in global carbon dioxide concentrations and global average temperature. Happy Friday! Read the rest

How the effects of climate change can create more climate change

One of the interesting things about the global carbon dioxide and climate systems is the concept of feedback loops. You already know that as atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide go up (and with them, the global average temperature) you get lots of different kinds of changes all over the place. For instance, mountain pine forests start experiencing warmer winters and smaller snowpacks. But, as those changes happen, they can actually trigger secondary effects that contribute to, and increase the rate of, climate change.

In this video, you'll learn about how warmer temperatures and lower snowpacks are contributing to the spread of massive pine beetle infestations across the western United States. This is more than just inconvenient. The pine beetles can quickly kill huge amounts of trees, raising the risk of property-destroying forest fires and razing whole ecosystems. And, as the trees die en masse, forests that were once carbon sinks (absorbing more carbon dioxide than they released) become emitters—adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Thanks to Barfman for Submitterating!

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A hole in the ground: Storing carbon dioxide thousands of feet below Illinois

One blazing hot afternoon in August of 2010, I stood on a mountain top in Alabama, staring at a styrofoam beer cooler upended over the top of a metal pole. Alongside me were a couple dozen sweaty engineers and geologists. That beer cooler was one of the few visible signs of the research project happening far below our feet.

Over the course of two months, scientists from the University of Alabama had injected 278 tons of carbon dioxide into the Earth. The goal was to keep it there forever, locked in geologic formations. The beer cooler was a key part of that plan. Beneath it sat the delicate electronic components of the monitoring system the scientists were using to make sure none of the captured carbon dioxide found its way out of the mountain. Beer coolers, it turns out, make great low-cost heat protection.

Carbon capture and storage—the process of removing carbon dioxide from factory and power plant emissions and trapping it where it can't reach the atmosphere—is an interesting idea. It has the potential to help us make our current energy systems cleaner as we work on building more sustainable systems for the future. With that in mind, the Department of Energy has seven regional research teams testing carbon capture and storage at sites around the United States.

So far, nobody in the United States has put this full process to the test at the scale that would be necessary in the real world. But, in the past couple of weeks, scientists at the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium began pumping carbon dioxide at a new site, one that is going to give us our best picture yet of what full-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be like. Read the rest