Greenhouse gas emissions

Measurements from Antarctic ice cores show that before industrial emissions started atmospheric CO2 levels were about 280 parts per million by volume (ppmv), and stayed between 260 and 280 during the preceding ten thousand years. Carbon dioxide formulations in the atmosphere have gone up by approximately 30 percent since the 1900s, rising from 280 parts per million by volume to 367 parts per million in 1998..One study using evidence from stomata of fossilized leaves suggests greater variability, with carbon dioxide levels above 300 ppm during the period seven to ten thousand years ago, though others have argued that these findings more likely reflect calibration or contamination problems rather than actual CO2 variability. Because of the way air is trapped in ice (pores in the ice close off slowly to form bubbles deep within the firn) and the time period represented in each ice sample analyzed, these figures represent averages of atmospheric concentrations of up to a few centuries rather than annual or decadal levels.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the concentrations of most of the greenhouse gases have increased. For example, the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by about 36% to 380 ppmv, or 100 ppmv over modern pre-industrial levels. The first 50 ppmv increase took place in about 200 years, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to around 1973; however the next 50 ppmv increase took place in about 33 years, from 1973 to 2006.

Recent data also shows the concentration is increasing at a higher rate. In the 1960s, the average annual increase was only 37% of what it was in 2000 through 2007.

Relative CO2 emission from various fuels

Pounds of Carbon dioxide emitted per million, British thermal units of energy for various fuels.

Fuel name   CO2 emitted (lbs/106 Btu)   CO2 emitted (g/106 J)  
Natural gas 117 50.30
Liquefied petroleum gas 139 59.76
Propane 139 59.76
Aviation gasoline 153 65.78
Automobile gasoline 156 67.07
Kerosene 159 68.36
Fuel oil 161 69.22
Tires/tire derived fuel 189 81.26
Wood and wood waste 195 83.83
Coal (bituminous) 205 88.13
Coal (subbituminous) 213 91.57
Coal (lignite) 215 92.43
Petroleum coke 225 96.73
Coal (anthracite) 227 97.59

The other greenhouse gases produced from human activity show similar increases in both amount and rate of increase.

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