The Blue Jays’ amazing run, baseball stats, and the Rogers Centre Meter: (re-) introducing the OBP of climate change

At the beginning of August, only die-hards like me were paying much attention to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays were six games behind the American League East-leading Yankees, and their prospects of winning the AL East looked ready to slide into nowheresville. My Rogers Centre metric, renamed here the Rogers Centre Meter, appeared destined to become, like CIPK and WIPK, just another one of my obscure statistical offerings to environmental advocacy. Then August happened.

Today, Toronto heads into a critical four-game series against the Yankees one-and-a-half games up on the Bronx Bombers. Game One, scheduled for yesterday, was rained out and postponed until Saturday. That means it was to take place in New York—the Jays’ home park, Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto, is a covered stadium. With its roof closed, Rogers Centre has an indoor volume of 1.6 million cubic meters. And that means it can, with an ambient temperature of 25° C and one atmosphere pressure, hold 2,877 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

You are looking at not only the home park of the best team in baseball, but at enough indoor volume to hold 2,877 metric tons of carbon dioxide.  Ontario natural gas-fired power plants, contributing less than ten percent of the province’s electrical energy in the first 18 hours of September 10 2015, dumped enough CO2 to fill this vast indoor space more than five times over.

You are looking at not only the home park of the Toronto Blue Jays, currently the best team in baseball, but at enough indoor volume to hold 2,877 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Ontario natural gas-fired power plants, contributing less than ten percent of the province’s electrical energy in the first 18 hours of September 10 2015, dumped enough CO2 to fill this vast indoor space more than five times over.

How to calculate how much CO2 fits into Rogers Centre
At 25 °C, Rogers Centre with its roof closed holds 2,877 metric tons of CO2. Here is how I got that number:

  1. The mass of one mole of CO2 is 44.01 grams. (Most versions of the Periodic Table, including this one, give the mass of each element. Look up carbon and oxygen—the constituent atoms in a molecule of CO2—and note their mass. Don’t confuse the atomic mass of an element with its atomic number! Add the mass of one atom of carbon, ~12.01 atomic mass units or AMU, to that of two atoms of oxygen, ~32 AMU. The result: a molecule of CO2 has a mass of 44.01 AMU. A mole of CO2 is therefore 44.01 grams.)
  2. One mole of any gas, at 25 °C and one atmosphere pressure, occupies 24.47 litres of volume. (One mole of any gas at standard temperature and pressure occupies 22.414 litres. To calculate molar volume at another temperature, let’s call it T2, with the same pressure, convert temperature to Kelvins and then multiply the ratio of the STP volume to temperature by T2; this is Charles’s Law. In this case, your T2 is 25 °C, which is 298 Kelvins: 25 + 273 = 298. Your ratio of STP volume to temperature is 22.414/273 = 0.0821. Multiply 0.0821 x 298 = 24.466 litres.)
  3. One metric tonne, or one million grams, of CO2 contains 22,727 moles: divide one million by 44.
  4. Multiply those 22,727 moles in a tonne of  CO2 by the molar volume of a gas at 25 °C, which from point 3 is 24.47 litres.
  5. Therefore one metric tonne of CO2 at the above-mentioned temperature and pressure occupies 556,136 litres.
  6. One cubic meter is 1,000 litres, so a metric tonne of CO2 occupies 556.14 cubic meters (divide the 556,136 litres of CO2 that make up a metric tonne by 1,000).
  7. Now you need to know the volume of Rogers Centre. According to Rogers, Rogers Centre’s volume is 1,600,000 m3. So divide that by 556.14 to get 2,877.

Have a look at Item A1 up on the left. It shows the current concentration of CO2 in the air at Mauna Loa Hawaii. It is a good measure of the overall CO2 concentration in our planet’s atmosphere. As you can see, it is just about 400 parts per million (0.004 percent). When Frederick II was the king of Prussia, in the mid-1700s, it was around 270 parts per million. The atmosphere contains 5.1 quadrillion—i.e., 5.1 thousand trillion—tons of gas, and to increase the CO2 concentration by one part per million requires the net addition of 7.8 billion tons of it.

For humans to have increased the atmospheric CO2 concentration by roughly 130 parts per million means we have collectively since the Industrial Revolution added more than 350 million Rogers Centres’ worth of it—an average of roughly 1.7 million Rogers Centres per year.

Canadians are getting seriously fired up over the Blue Jays. It has been 23 long years since the Jays have even been in the playoffs, and this run is the closest they’ve been in that time. The Jays are a hot team because, among other things, as a team they lead the major leagues in an offensive metric called on-base percentage (OBP). OBP measures how often a player reaches base. It is a far more meaningful metric than batting average, which is still quoted by baseball pundits. If you are a general manager looking to make a championship team, you look to acquire players with high individual OBPs. Batting average is secondary.

Canadians are also, much more slowly but just as surely, getting fired up about climate change and carbon emissions. Up to now, they have been misled into thinking that the best measure of success in fighting carbon is the number of wind turbines built. That measure is useless, more so than batting average is in assessing offensive power in baseball. The only thing that matters in fighting carbon is the actual amount of carbon that a society dumps into the air.

I hope Canadians become as familiar with the Rogers Centre Meter, which tracks the economy-wide emissions of carbon in units that are as meaningful and useful as OBP is in baseball. Do we want to keep dumping multiple Rogers Centres’ worth of carbon every single day into our air? Especially when their grandparents paid to develop a technology that not only runs Canada’s biggest province but produces a waste stream that would take 800 years to fill Rogers Centre once?

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