The scale of Today's built environment (use arrows or swipe to advance the images)
The scale of cement. Cement makes concrete. Therefore, to grasp the scale of society's use of cement, and hence assess the threat that Portland cement poses towards effective Climate Action, let's look here at the Worldwide usage of concrete—both past and future.
The recent past. By any measure, more than 1% of the entire total of human-made CO2 since 1900, has been released just by making the cement used in concrete in the past 10 years alone!
Looking to the future. The predictions made by the Global cement industry's own premier voice, foresees a huge unprecedented opportunity by 2050:
"The global cement industry will respond over the next three decades to some of the most momentous shifts in humankind’s history. Populations will have increased from 6bn in 2000 to 9.7bn in 2050, while global urbanisation rates will increase from 47% in 2000 to around 66% by mid-century. Global GDP was USD $33tn in 2000 but will have grown to nearly $140tn by 2050. The world is rapidly ageing: 7% of the world’s population was 65 or older in 2000 (420mn people), but in 2050 it will be 17% (1.6bn people).
These facts offer the global cement industry some of the greatest opportunities in its history. At the same time, the industry faces great challenges: it uses expensive energy to create a product with high emissions of CO2, in an increasingly carbon-constrained world."
— Global Cement Magazine (PDF here)
The first image above isn't a scene from some sci-fi dystopia set in the far future. No. Taken from our movie Nature's Turn, it's downtown Tokyo that includes the Skytree landmark of 2011 東京スカイツ at 634m tall.
Tokyo is only emblematic of concrete's scale, rather than being exceptional. To view Nature's Turn, the link is towards the foot of this page...
Virtually every scrap of concrete on our Planet has left us with a CO2 legacy: it's still with us. This is because atmospheric carbon dioxide can take many centuries to abate of its own accord, while the explosion in the use of concrete is a much more recent phenomenon, as the table below shows...
Below are several infographics that confirm the astonishing scale of the imperative...
A poke in the eye for Climate Action?
"The total global floor area of buildings is projected to double by 2060, which is equivalent to building an area the size of Paris every week!"
"Meanwhile, capital investments in infrastructure are forecast to grow by 40-70% by 2040, and there are huge retrofit requirements for existing buildings. In Europe, ~97% of the building stock is not efficient enough to comply with future CO2 reduction targets" (here)
In 2020, human-made (anthropogenic) mass exceeded the dry mass of all life on Earth for the first time ever!
Humanity now makes about 30 billion tonnes (30 Gt) per year — and that yearly rate is going to increase too.
… And the biggest culprit of all?
The persistent facts: In 100 years or so, making cement has put out ~50bn tonnes of CO2. This could be as much as ~5% of the total amount of human-made CO2 released into the Earth's atmosphere, across the same time period.
That 100 year-old CO2 is still with us. This is because atmospheric carbon dioxide can take many centuries to abate of its own accord.
First, let's take a look at the recent past...
China's production-growth says it all (link)
If the cement industry were a country, it would already rank as the third largest carbon dioxide emitter in the World, surpassed only by China and the United States.
While it is true that steps have been taken to move Portland cement into blends comprising less relative quantities of clinker, for the purposes here, we rely on a generally-agreed statistic (PDF here) that 2018's ~4.1bn tonne cement production yielded ~2.5bn tonnes CO2 — for both the CO2 driven-off from limestone and the CO2 from the fuels burned to meet the high-temperature needs...
The shocking facts. Although the mass of all humans on the planet totals only ~0.01% of all biomass, our impact is like no other on Earth. We're one of the few species that can alter the environment to the point of affecting all life on Earth. As the Table above shows (click for PDF):
In about 100 years, the CO2 concentration has grown from 291ppm to 414ppm for 2020. That's analogous to about an extra 1,100bn tonnes.
In that same time period, using the red 2020-figure in the Table above, concrete's use has been responsible for upwards of ~55bn tonnes of CO2 from the production of Portland cement (assuming GNR figures here and a cement dose of 350kg cement per cu•m of concrete).
"Shifts in total anthropogenic mass are tied to global events, such as world wars & major economic crises. Notably, continuous increases in anthropogenic mass, peaking at over 5 percent per year, mark the period immediately following World War II" (click for PDF)
"By 2060, buildings sector floor area will double, adding more than 230 billion sq•m to the planet in new buildings construction.
Those additions are equivalent to building the current floor area of Japan every single year from now until 2060."
The rate of concrete usage is set only to increase!
What the...? Counting only the cement used in concrete (i.e. not mortar), as much as ~2% of the entire human-made CO2 since 1900 may have come from making cement in the past 10 years alone!
Stating the imperative: From a Climate Action perspective, the fact that concrete is already the most-consumed material after water, is bad enough. The fact that its consumption is set to increase is awful. The fact that the increase in its consumption rate is also set to increase is even worse. Now add-in the enormous energy requirement and huge CO2-release that this all implies!
There must be change. EMC Volcanics produce concretes that are super durable. Combined with the fact that EMC Volcanic are low energy and zero CO2, this means the lifetime embodied "cost" of the concrete is hugely-improved.
CO₂ emissions from cement production and the burning of fossil fuels for energy 1900-2020 (here).
EMC Volcanics are completely natural — made using a low energy, non-toxic, zero-CO2 process. As denialists seek to preserve the status quo, we say: it's time for change!