Climate change in facts and figures


90 – 100 million barrels of oil every day

In addition roughly the same amount in coal and gas.

We humans burn between 95 and 100 million barrels of oil every day. One barrel of oil equals 159 litres, roughly a full bathtub. This corresponds to roughly 15 000 000 000 litres of oil every day  (15 billion litres)

Every day we burn a corresponding amount of coal and gas. If we add the coal, oil and gas, it corresponds to burning 30 billion litres per day, or an olympic sized swimming pool filled with oil every second, 24/7 year round.

Carbon everywhere
Carbon everywhere

See full size image  Source: Carbon everywhere

Oil, coal and gas are fossil fuels which nature has stored in the ground for the last 400 million years. Now we take this carbon from its storages in the ground and put it back into air and sea over a period of two centuries . This fossil carbon is not part of the daily or the annual carbon cycle where all living organisms breathe, and plants produce oxygen and sugar through photosynthesis. Our burning of fossil fuels adds extra carbon to the carbon cycle that is already, naturally present.


USD 20 -120 per barrel

The open market price for one barrel. Oil is sold by barrels: bbl.

If we take the daily 100 million barrels and multiply by USD 60, we get a rough idea about the global daily economic turnover of crude oil: we get USD 6 000 000 000. And this is just the crude oil. In addition we get the different layers of daily turnover in the value adding chain of tanker transport, refineries, refined petroleum products sold at retail prices. (Gasoline, diesel, kerosene, asphalt etc). In addition you add the daily economic turnover of coal and gas with corresponding figures.  According to some sources the global daily turnover of fossil fuel related products is somewhere around USD 200 billion.

The owners of the top highest oil producers and exporters belong to the superrich less than 1% class.  The 10 richest companies in the world, most of them oil companies, are all bigger economies than 180 countries. Arab-American oil company (Aramco) is assumed to be the world’s most valuable company, twice as wealthy as Exxon-Mobile and Apple. The  combined wealth of Aramco and its partners (the gigantic oil companies from the oil cartel called “seven sisters“) is one of the biggest economies of the world, if not the biggest.


USD 500 – 2000 billion per year in subsidies

“Fossil fuels remain dominant in the global energy mix, supported by subsidies that amounted to $523 billion in 2011, up almost 30% on 2010 and six times more than subsidies to renewables” IEA (2012) World energy outlook

A recent projection places the total value of conventional global fossil fuel subsidies between $775 billion and more than $1 trillion in 2012, depending on which supports are included in the calculation.1 In contrast, total subsidies for renewable energy stood at $66 billion in 2010” World Watch institute: Fossil Fuel and Renewable Energy Subsidies on the Rise   The International Monetary Fund is deeply worried about the fossil fuel subsidies: Energy subsidy reform  |  IMF Rejects Fossil Fuel Subsidies, Calls for Reform


35 billion tonnes CO2 per year

The  production of  extra CO2 as an inevitable result of burning fossil fuels is over  35 billion tonnes of annual emissions of carbon dioxide added to our common atmosphere. This CO2 does not just vanish. Some of it is absorbed by vegetation and seas. Some of it remains in the atmosphere for centuries. CO2 emissions 2006


40% increase the last 200 years

The last 10000 years the CO2 content in the atmosphere has been roughly 270 ppm. The last one million years, the CO2 content has probably not exceeded 300ppm. The atmospheric  CO2 content has increased rapidly since the start of the industrial revolution in 1750. The increase is now accellerating, and has now  reached 400 ppm.


1 808.0 ppb  – 158% increase of methane

The atmospheric content of the strong greenhouse gas methane in the year 2010. This is 158% higher than it used to be hundred and fifty years ago.


0,17% of the climate researchers in doubt

The number of climate researchers who question anthropogenic  global warming is a fraction of one percent. A climate researcher is a person who is academically qualified as a researcher in the topic area and who has recently published his or her findings in a peer-reviewed, international, scientific journal. The scientific consensus is massive. Scientifically there is no debate on the anthropogenic impact on our climate systems. During the last 50 years there has been no extra insolation. There is no special Milankovich effect warming our planet. Extra cosmic dust does not have any special impact on our climate.


In the Copenhagen accord 167 countries agreed that to avoid reaching dangerous tipping points, global warming should not exceed 2 centigrades. Unfortunately, the two degree target is no guarantee against a runaway greenhouse effect. Some people think this goal is probably impossible to keep, and that it is a cover-up. The two-degree limit is more based on political negotiations than on science. The scientific majority prefers a less than one-degree rise in global average temperature to feel safer. Risking a one degree rise might be similar to playing russian roulette with one bullet in the magazine. A two degree rise might be equal to loading it with two bullets. Another degree means a third bullet load. You point your russian roulette gun at your grandchildren. The likely outcome is “Hell and high water” in our childrens lifetime. The worst case scenario is the Venus syndrome.


565 Gigatons

Scientists have calculated that there is a reasonable hope to stay below  2°C by mid century if we limit our carbon emissions to a total of 565 more gigatons, or corresponding to less than 450 ppmv of greenhouse gases(GHG)  in the atmosphere. (This is probably wildly optimistic. The atmospheric CO2 content is now  over 390 ppmv, while the total concentration of atmospheric GHG is already over 470 ppmv).

2795 Gigatons

The amount of carbon contained in the proven oil, coal and gas reserves of fossil fuel companies – the fossil fuel we currently plan to burn –  is 2795 gigatons. This is five times more than our “allowance”.      Global warming’s terrifying new math


5% increase in atmospheric humidity per 1°C increase in global average temperature

Warmer oceans and air means increasing humidity in the air. Firstly, water vapor is the main GHG. More humidity is an enhancing feedback mechanism. Secondly, more water vapor in the air means heavier rainfalls and floodings


30% increase in radiative forcing since 1990

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (NOAA-AGGI),  shows that from 1990 to 2011, radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases increased by 30%, with CO2 accounting for about 80% of this increase


0,16°C  temperature rise per decade

Global average temperature increase per decade is less than one fifth of one centigrade – so far. Per annum the average temperature rise is slightly more than one hundredth of one degree. Annual weather variations will obviously have much stronger impact than global warming – for the time being. An increasingly open Arctic sea will have impact on North Atlantic climates.

“The period 2001–2010 was the warmest decade on record since modern meteorological records began around the year 1850.

The global average temperature of the air above the Earth’s surface over the 10-year period is estimated to have been 14.47°C ± 0.1°C. This is 0.47°C ± 0.1°C above the 1961–1990 global average of +14.0°C and +0.21 ± 0.1°C above the 1991–2000 global average. It is 0.88°C higher than the average temperature of the first decade of the 20th century (1901–1910).

A pronounced increase in the global temperature occurred over the four decades 1971–2010. The global temperature increased at an average estimated rate of 0.17°C per decade during that period, while the trend over the whole period 1880–2010 was only 0.062°C per decade. Furthermore, the increase of 0.21°C in the average decadal temperature from 1991–2000 to 2001–2010 is larger than the increase from 1981–1990 to 1991–2000 (+0.14°C) and larger than for any other two successive decades since the beginning of instrumental records.

Nine of the decade’s years were among the 10 warmest on record. The warmest year ever recorded was 2010, with a mean temperature anomaly estimated at 0.54°C above the 14.0°C baseline, followed closely by 2005. The least warm year was 2008, with an estimated anomaly of +0.38°C, but this was enough to make 2008 the warmest La Niña year on record.

The 2001–2010 decade was also the warmest on record for both land-only and ocean-only surface temperatures. The warmest worldwide land-only surface-air temperature was recorded in 2007, with a temperature anomaly of +0.95°C.”

WMO (2013) The global climate 2001-2010)



Source: Cowtan and Way Annual temperature variations are variations in weather. Climate is average parameters over 30 years. Focusing on one year is unscientific cherry-picking
Source: Cowtan and Way
Annual temperature variations are variations in weather. Climate is average parameters over 30 years. Focusing on one year is unscientific cherry-picking


The world’s oceans are warming. Average ocean temperatures have risen by 0,76°C the last century


4°C – the likely increase this century

According to a World Bank director and chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern, his so-called Stern report from 2006 was wrong. The situation is far more serious   IPCC 2007: The long term perspective 


473 ppm GHG

Total radiative forcing of all long-lived greenhouse gases was the CO2 equivalent of 473 parts per million in 2011 (Greeningtheblue, 2012).

Total GHG radiative forcing since 1990
Total GHG radiative forcing since 1990

Source: NOAA, Global Monitoring Center 2012

This leads to a clear long-term warming trend

Escalator: Average of GISSNCDC, and HadCRUT4 monthly global surface temperature anomalies 1970-2011


 3,18mm per year

The average global sea level rise by 3,18mm per year – and the rise accelerates

3.489.063 square kilometres

The Arctic sea ice extent autumn 2012.  On September 16th the trend line shortly dipped below 3.5 million km2, reaching a minimum extent of 3.489.063 square kilometres. That’s more than three quarters of a million below the 2007 record, and more than a million below 2011.


Shipping along the Arctic northern sea route is set to grow more than 30-fold over the next eight years


30% more acidic

The oceans have become 30% more acidic the last century. 1/4 of the extra CO2 humans add to the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans. This leads to acidification of the oceans, and threatens the marine eco systems.


Less than $ 1

The cost of one Watt of solar energy is now less than one dollar, and is competitive with electricity from coal and oil. The cost of solar energy is sinking, the cost of fossil fuels is rising.


USD XXX million petro dollars to denial and propaganda

The economic interests in keeping the fossil fuel society going for some more years are so high that the richest people in the world are willing to take unethical and extreme risks. They keep funding the biggest propaganda machinery ever seen

The main problems with the fossil fuel society

Most countries currently depend on oil, gas and coal as energy sources. More than 80% of the world’s energy is obtained from fossil fuels. The reasons are high energy density, abundance and until now relatively low costs.  The problems can be divided in four categories:

  1. Environmental pollution

    Coal and oil contain many different chemicals and particles that may be hazardous to health, such as carbon particles, NOx, VOCs; and harm the environment, such as sulphur. Burning coal kills. Oil spills may have serious longterm toxicological effects. Coal mining and tar sand oil exploration destroy nature

  2. Non-renewable, limited resources

    Fossil fuels are finite. Sooner or later the resources will run out. We use the cheap and easily available sources first. We get “hooked” and addicted. When the source peaks (about now), more expensive and less readily available sources will be exploited – and the products sold to a much higher retail price. The profits for persons controlling old and cheap oil-wells will be staggering.

  3. Vulnerable logistics and volatile prices, uneven geographical distribution

    The big reserves of cheap, conventional crude oil are concentrated in the Middle East, controlled by “Big oil” CEOs in association with regimes or persons with  agendas of their own. Extreme islam = petro-islam= “beduin”-islam = wahhabists and salafists. The most fanatic are apocalyptic mahdis, and like some extremist “christians” and jews they are looking forward to and promote the apocalypse. The one reason wahhabists and salafists are counted in millions rather than thousands is oil. This is a main reason why ordinary muslims fighting for democracy in Tunis, Egypt, Syria etc have a hard and long struggle ahead of them. Petro-islam and Western big oil CEOs to a large extent control and instruct US big oil and their propaganda machinery. They instruct Rupert Murdoch’s media empire and Fox news. They increasingly buy Western banks. Fossil fuel societies are vulnerable to delivery failure and wild price fluctuations. Fossil fuel societies depend on the good will of corpocratic groups like Big oil and petro-tyrants.

  4. CO2 emissions and climate change

    Climate scientists worldwide have documented the evidence of global warming in surface air, land and sea temperatures, the rise of sea level, reductions in glacier ice and snow coverage,  increase in ocean heat content and ocean acidification

The new paradigm: renewable energy sources and sustainable development

a. Renewable energy does not pollute air and water

b. Renewable energy is eternal

c. Renewable energy increases local resilience and robustness, keeps capital at local leves, decentralises logistics, increases innovation and local competence, stops capital accumulation in the wrong places, facilitates and enhances democratic processes.

d. Renewable energy prevents global warming and ensures a safer and prosperous future for future generations

The risk of choosing the sustainable development paradigm is having to pay some extra money for a much better and safer future for all. We are all more or less petro-holics. The sooner we start weaning ourselves off the habit, the better. The choice is yours – and many factors indicate you have to choose now.

We should have started transforming our society forty years ago. The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be. We have known what to do for decades. Margareth Thatcher on global warming 1990


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About svenaake

University Teacher.
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10 Responses to Climate change in facts and figures

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  7. Howdy! I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the good information you’ve here on this post.
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  8. Pingback: It’s just natural variation – isn’t it? | Education for Sustainable Development

  9. A lot of very useful information on one place which will be helpful to get to.


  10. unclepete says:

    Did not see any mention of Co2 free electricity from fission.


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