Deutsche Bank Has No Idea What Its New Carbon Sign Means


Deutsche Bank unveiled a massive “Carbon Counter” in Manhattan that shows how many tons of greenhouse gases are flying into the air on a second by second basis. The statistics are complied in conjunction with MIT researchers.

It’s like the National Debt Clock, and it’s supposed to remind people that…greenhouse gases are constantly entering the atmosphere!

The trouble is it doesn’t provide any context. Greenhouse gasses are always entering the atmosphere, Hummers or no Hummers.  So how much is too much?

We asked Deutsche Bank to explain. They don’t know:

The Business Insider: I was hoping someone there could put the sign in perspective. Like, for every 800 metric tons that goes up in a second, sea levels rise 1/10 of an inch. Or temperatures rise 1/100 of a degree. Could someone provide some context for me? I’d like to know what the numbers really mean.

Deutsche Bank: The role of the counter is to spark people into thinking about the long-term impacts which aren’t as obvious and are difficult to measure in real time. Furthermore, the impacts of the rising GHG’s [greenhouse gasses] are non-linear and the computer models developed to date are scenario based, meaning that impact will have variability depending on a complex set of interactions between the economy and the ecosystem. There are broad level changes that occur, but are not measured in real time, such as sea level rise, or temperature rise

The Business Insider:  It seems like the counter is still pretty abstract.

Deutsche Bank:  Another way to say it is that there are 800 tons of carbon being emitted every second, 2 billion tons a month. so in 5 mins, you can point out that 240,000 tons were emitted.

Thanks! On DB’s site, we did find a more contextual answer.

parts per million GHG table

As you can see on the right, the parts per million of CO2 are rising. This number is the highest it’s been in 800,000 years, as shown in the chart below. (This chart is on the giant display in Manhattan.)

carbon dioxide chart

So, what’s it mean? Research says that once we go above 450 PPM, we’re screwed.

Even with this explanation, the clock is still meaningless.  It doesn’t help you to know how much carbon is going into the atmosphere if you don’t know how much is being taken out. A clock showing parts-per-million might be a lot more effective, especially if it were counting down the minutes to D-day.

Of course, this whole exchange is emblematic of the entire carbon debate. It’s hard to get people really fired up about greenhouse gases because they’re so abstract.

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