How many times do Ontario gas plants emit enough carbon dioxide (CO2) to fill up the Rogers Centre with the roof closed? You can figure out how much they have emitted so far today: just divide the amount of CO2 in the Gas category in Table 2 on the left-hand sidebar by 2,877, which is how many tons of CO2 would fit into the Rogers Centre at 25 °C and one atmosphere pressure. (For an explanation of how I got that figure, see the Info Box below). As of nine a.m. today (December 10), they had emitted enough CO2 to fill Rogers Centre just over 2.6 times.
Here’s how many times Ontario’s gas plants filled up Rogers Centre per day in November 2013:
|DAY IN NOVEMBER 2013||CO2, TONS||# OF ROGERS CENTRES FILLED|
As you can see, Ontario gas plants filled the Rogers Centre 190 times in November. On November 29, the Ontario gas plants filled Rogers Centre with CO2 11 times. The lowest days were the 1st and 9th, when they only filled it 4 times. The average for the month was 6 times.
How many times can we as a society keep doing this? Dumping so much CO2 into the air won’t make our atmosphere thicker or more dense, as Al Gore claimed in his documentary An Inconvenient Truth. But it will make it more “opaque” to long-wave (infrared) radiation. Which is to say, it will trap more heat.
It will also increase the number of CO2 molecules making contact with surface water. This will increase the amount of CO2 being absorbed into the world’s oceans—most of the world is covered with salt water. When CO2 absorbs into water, it turns it slightly more acidic. This has been increasing since the Industrial Revolution, and scientists now estimate that half of the man-made CO2 has been absorbed in the world’s oceans. The pH of the oceans has historically been 8.2, which is slightly on the base side (neutral is 7); today it averages about 8.1. That might sound small, but it has altered the water chemistry especially of shallow areas, where a lot of ocean life is. More CO2 in the water means less of the calcium carbonate minerals which are the building blocks for the shells and skeletons of many marine animals.
Scientists also think the oceans absorb today about one-third of the man-made CO2 dumped into the air. So have another look at the table above. Divide the tons of CO2 emitted by Ontario gas plants by three. That is how much our electricity is affecting the world’s oceans.
Next time you pass the Rogers Centre, think of it as a receptable for CO2 for Ontario gas plants. In November, the provincial gas fleet dumped enough carbon to fill Rogers Centre once every four hours. A third of that will acidify the oceans, and harm marine animals. How much should we rely on these plants for our electricity, especially when we have nuclear plants that dump no CO2 at all?