Here's a Good Analogy for the Carbon Budget Problem

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CC BY 4.0. Imagine those buckets are full of greenhouse gases, not poop. John Thomson, 1871, via Wikipedia

Imagine a bucket of greenhouse gases that's almost full.

In a recent post I tried to explain why cutting emissions before 2030 was so important:

So why is 2030 such a magic number? Why has everyone said we have 12 11 now 10 years to fix things? The answer is that it's not and we don't. What we have is a carbon budget of about 420 gigatonnes of CO2, which is the maximum that can be added to the atmosphere if we are going to have any kind of chance of keeping warming below 1.5 degrees. We are now emitting 42 gigatonnes a year, so we will blow the budget in 2030 if we don't do anything.

But that is still confusing. Rob Jackson of Stanford University has tried to make it simpler and clearer to understand with this clever graphic of a bucket, visualized by Alistair Fitter and Jerker Lokrantz, which shows how much greenhouse gas the atmosphere can hold before we reach 1.5°C in warming. Kristin Toussaint of Fast Company quotes Jackson:

“I wanted to go back further in time, [have] the date begin in 1870 and end today, and I wanted to illustrate the responsibility for cumulative emissions—which countries have placed most of the pollution in the atmosphere,” he says. “More importantly, I hope to show the speed, the pace, with which emissions have increased. I think that’s where this video really resonated with people.”

It is certainly more obvious than my comparison to a household budget.

“It’s a way of getting people to think about the finite quality. Everyone understands what happens when you overfill a bucket: bad things happen,” he says. “It’s a simple way of illustrating that the atmosphere has a finite capability to hold greenhouse gasses before bad things happen.”

Then there is the Carbon Clock from the Mercator Research Institute.

The MCC Carbon Clock shows how much CO2 can be released into the atmosphere to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C and 2°C, respectively. With just a few clicks, you can compare the estimates for both temperature targets and see how much time is left in each scenario....the clock keeps ticking and shows how little time is left for political decision-makers to take action.

This is all too much for this early in the morning. I am going back to bed and getting up according to the only countdown clock that really matters:

Spring training countdown clock

Spring training Countdown/Screen capture