Happy Christmas from The White House

In Santa’s world the air is just emptiness.  It’s also limitless - after all you can see the stars through it.  That’s how he and the reindeers can deliver gifts so effortlessly to the world’s children on a single night.

In the real world that’s not true.  Every space, even the office of the most powerful person on the planet, has an amazing mix of gases without which we would be unable to live.  But that mix is being changed by burning coal, oil and gas. 

That’s why Santa is rather puzzled to see this shiny bubble, representing the exact amount of man-made carbon dioxide in the Oval Office (or indeed in any room of the same size the world over).  Perhaps it is a suitable gift and reminder to the next occupant (and us all).

Thanks to all our clients and partners for your support in 2016.  Special thanks to Dave Forman for design input, and Anna Lodge who looks after our comms and social media, without whom we would be ... invisible!

We have shown Father Christmas as being 6’1” (1.85 metres) tall. Please contact me if you think this is not true - or should we care in a post-truth world?
— Antony Turner, CEO

Feel free to download and share this image which is available under Creative Commons licence on our Flickr page.

Technical note

The volume of the Oval Office is approximately 399 m3 (14,100 ft3). Its major axis is 10.9 metres and its minor axis is 8.8 metres. The line of rise (point at which the ceiling starts to rise) is 5 metres and the height at the centre of the domed ceiling is 5.6 metres. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oval_Office)

On 11 December 2016 the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was at a concentration 404.36 parts per million by volume (ppmv)  (https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/monthly.html). That means, in 399 m3 of air there will be 162 litres of carbon dioxide (43 gallons).

The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide was 280 ppmv, which means in 399 m3 of air there will be 112 litres of ’natural' carbon dioxide (30 gallons). The remaining 50 litres (13 gallons) is man-made carbon dioxide (which wouldn’t be there if we had not been burning fossil fuels since 1750). 50 litres would fill a sphere 456 mm in diameter (18 inches).

About 1.8 litres of the man-made carbon dioxide in the air in the Oval Office is attributable to fossil fuel sold by Chevron.

Chevron: 1.8 litres (59 fl oz)

ExxonMobil: 1.6 litres (54 fl oz)

BP: 1.2 litres (41 fl oz)

Shell: 1.1 litres (36 fl oz)

(Note: figures have been rounded).