The VICE Channels

    Carbon Levels Just Hit a Record High and Humans Want 1,000 More Coal Plants

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor

    The grim climate change news is falling down around us like bloggy acid rain, so let’s try to get a grip here and put the three latest and ugliest jigsaw pieces together:

    First, a report out today from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization shows that last year, carbon emissions reached a new record high—we’re just shy of 391 parts per million in the atmosphere now. Other heat-trapping gases are up, too, like methane and nitrous oxide. The Guardian notes that “All told, the amount of excess heat prevented from escaping into outer space was 30 percent higher in 2011 than it was as recently as 1990.”

    We are now trapping a hell of a lot more heat in the atmosphere. And whatever might that mean? Let’s turn to part two:

    A new report from the World Bank reaffirms that all of the smartest climate scientists think we’re headed for 4˚C worth of hotter temps by the end of the century, and that will devastate the poor and the global economy. If we allow carbon to accumulate into the Earth’s atmosphere at the current rate, and allow temps to rise that high, the future would literally be “unimaginable.” Got it?

    And now, for part three, let’s take a looksie at what humans are planning on doing about this massive carbon problem:

    Build 1,200 more coal plants. As in, build a thousand more of the most intensive carbon-spewers on the planet, to go on top of the record-breaking trajectory we’ve firmly established thus far. Damien Carrington reports that “the World Resources Institute (WRI) identified 1,200 coal plants in planning across 59 countries, with about three-quarters in China and India. The capacity of the new plants add up to 1,400GW to global greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of adding another China – the world’s biggest emitter.”

    In sum: We’ve just broken a brand-new record for stuffing the most heat-trapping greenhouse gases into our atmosphere ever. We are well aware that continuing to do so, to rely upon the industrial fossil-fueled economy as it is—much less accelerate its reliance on coal, gas, and oil—will pretty much ruin the world as we know it. And yet, we’re planning on adding a truly massive fleet of new carbon-belchers, well aware that they will toast the planet. Humans. It’s just what we do.