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Global warming increasing by 400,000 atomic bombs every day

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The winds have to be strong enough to hurl large hunks of ice thousands of feet upwards to gain layer after layer of ice. Sure enough, extreme hail records are being set in our new turbo-charged climate.

Hawaii isn’t a place where giant hail forms. In fact, only eight times has hail the size of a penny or quarter been recorded for the islands. There were no records for hail larger than an inch until a freak supercell thunderstorm formed there on March 9, 2012. This pumped out a hail storm full of 2 to 3 inch diameter hail with at least one that was the width of a grapefruit -- 4.5 inches.

The two largest hailstones in US record keeping were both formed in 2010 super storms. An 8-inch hunk of ice hit South Dakota in July and a 7.75 inch hunk landed in Kansas in September. If you want to see an amazing video of a recent hail storm in Oklahoma, click here.

Top meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters sums up our new climate:

The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability ... We’ve bequeathed to our children a future with a radically changed climate that will regularly bring unprecedented weather events–many of them extremely destructive–to every corner of the globe. This year’s wild ride was just the beginning.

Writing about March’s freak heat wave he said simply: "This is not the atmosphere I grew up with."

Canada’s contributions

It was hard for me to grasp “400,000 atomic bombs worth of energy” beyond a sense of 'really, really big'. So I decided to break it down into smaller chunks to see how it relates to my everyday world.

One for every 3 MtCO2 of past emissions

Humanity has dumped 1.2 trillion tonnes of CO2 into our atmosphere so far. That means our climate is gaining the energy of one A-bomb worth of energy each day for every 3 million tonnes of past CO2 emissions. Based on that rough rule of thumb:

  • Alberta tar sands: Past tar sands carbon is accelerating our climate forward at the rate of 1,300 A-bombs worth of energy each day. Industry’s and Alberta government’s goal is to double tar sands carbon extraction by the end of this decade and triple by 2035.
  • BC CO2 emissions: Past fossil fuel burning in BC is accelerating our climate forward at the rate of 1,100 A-bombs worth of energy each day. The Clark government is halting carbon reduction policies while pushing huge increases in BC carbon extraction. Note also that the Alberta tar sands have now produced more carbon than all fossil fuels ever burned in BC history.
  • BC Coal: Past BC coal carbon is accelerating our climate forward at the rate of 600 A-bombs worth of energy each day. Industry and our current provincial government plan to significantly increase extraction of BC crown-owned coal.

One every 10 seconds in Canada

Canadians have dumped 2.2 per cent of the global CO2, making our national share from past emissions equal to 8,680 a-bombs worth of energy each day. That is 360 per hour. Six per minute. One every 10 seconds. Both our past and our on-going emissions are among the highest in the world per capita.

One for every 3,900 Canadians

Broken down by population it works out to one atomic bomb worth of extra energy each day for every 3,900 Canadians (three tonnes of TNT per person). Based on population, here are the contributions to our accelerating weather bomb from various BC towns and cities:

  • 100 Mile House – 1 A-bomb worth of extra energy every other day
  • Golden – 1 a-bomb worth every day
  • Whistler – 2 per day
  • Nelson – 3
  • Terrace – 4
  • Campbell River – 9
  • Penticton – 10
  • Nanaimo – 23
  • Victoria – 83 a-bombs worth each day
  • Metro Vancouver – 560 A-bombs worth of extra energy every day. One every 2 minutes.
  • City of Vancouver – 163 A-bombs worth a day
  • West End neighbourhood – 12 a day
  • Kitsilano neighbourhood – 8 a day
  • Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood -- 6 a day

The energy from just one atomic bomb shocked the world when it exploded. For good reason as this footage from a Nevada test shows. It shows a house a mile away from the epicentre of a single atomic bomb blast like the one dropped on Hiroshima.


The fossil fuels we have already burned in BC are increasing global warming by this much new energy every 75 seconds.

In case you were curious, we literally can’t afford to pull our past CO2 out of the atmosphere. A study by the American Physical Society shows it costs $2,400 to reduce atmospheric CO2 by a single tonne. We have dumped over a trillion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere since Enola Gay dropped its bomb in 1945. It would cost $3 to remove the CO2 emitted from a single litre of gasoline. Our current BC Carbon Tax is 6 cents per litre.

As the International Energy Agency recently said, the path humanity is on with fossil fuels is leading to "catastrophe." They said the costs to act now are many times less than the costs we face if we delay acting.

BC halts climate policies while accelerating carbon extraction

In BC, our climate policies have proven to be inadequate to meet even our own undersized goals.

We added a BC Carbon Tax with the plan to raise the price of carbon fuels and thereby discourage their use and so their CO2 emissions. Yet years later both gasoline and natural gas are cheaper now than before we added our carbon tax.

In addition, BC said clearly that coal was too dirty to burn. Yet the extraction of our crown-owned BC coal is increasing. Almost all our too-dirty-to-burn coal also is allowed to evade our carbon pricing and our carbon accounting.

Giant tar sands pipelines, each of which will pump out many times more carbon than all of BC's economy burns, are being fast-tracked through by our federal government. BC is becoming the doormat for a huge increase in tar sands carbon extraction.

Extraction of carbon in the form of BC natural gas is also increasing with a surge of fracking. Big new pipelines, liquefying export terminals and super tankers are being shoved into the Great Bear Rainforest to get this carbon away from our carbon taxes and into our atmosphere as fast as possible.

In the face of all this carbon bingeing, our supposedly climate-concerned BC Liberal government has:

  • talked of halting or eliminating the BC Carbon Tax
  • refunded some past carbon taxes paid by industry
  • eliminated taxes on a billion litres of jet fuel a year
  • proposed backing out of BC's 100 per cent clean electricity mandate
  • shelved plans to join carbon cap-and-trade
  • supported huge increases in crown-owned coal extraction and export
  • supported huge increases in natural gas extraction and export
  • allowed carbon exports to evade carbon taxes
  • sat silent while BC is being forced to be a pipeline and supertanker doormat for tar sands carbon expansion

If we want to stop our metastasizing climate bomb from getting totally out of hand the science is clear that most of the carbon still in the ground needs to stay there. To do that, our carbon laws and leadership need to change course pronto. Nothing we are doing is close to adequate to the challenge. We are carbon binging in BC. We are pouring our economic future into a growing carbon bubble.

As Nobel Prize Laureate and SFU professor Dr. Mark Jaccard said when he was arrested last week for blocking a BC coal train:

"We are heading for a real crisis in which we’ll have to start ripping infrastructure apart."

More in Climate Snapshot

"Carbon tsunami" lead by Enbridge Northern Gateway takes aim at BC

A flood of mega-carbon projects threaten to quickly turn British Columbia into one of the world's dirtiest economies.

Car Carbon series: cool new animation, plus the jaw-dropping impact it left out

What weighs sixteen billion pounds yet hides in plain sight?
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