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How much coal do people burn each year? | NOVA

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How much coal do people burn each year?

Release date: November 20, 2020

Narrator: Cooling the planet means first finding a way to prevent more CO2 from entering the atmosphere and then removing it.

But how much CO2 are you talking about?

Scott Denning: Imagine filling the National Mall with coal from the Lincoln Memorial to the steps of the Capitol and stacking it 10 times to the top of the Washington Monument. It will be 1 gigaton of coal. Giga means 1 billion. That is 1 billion tons.

Today, we actually burn 10 times more carbon each year. People actually dig them out of the ground, dig up 10 billion tonnes and ignite them in power plants, engines and factories around the world.

And because that carbon reacts with oxygen, 10 gigatons of carbon burn, but 37 gigatons of CO2 are generated.

Narrator: At current rates, CO2 emissions are only one year. To mitigate the effects of heating the planet, we need to reduce that number to zero.

But there is another problem. This is Gigaton who came before.

Jane Long: The most important fact about climate variability is that the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere has been there for thousands of years.

Narrator: Every year, we have gradually increased carbon dioxide near 1,000 meters gigatons since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Long: Almost everything we release stays there, until you do something about taking it out.

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