Monday, October 30, 2017
Three Million Years, Are You Kidding? Another Record for Mankind.
Atmospheric CO2 levels got a bump last year to 403.3 ppm, up from 400.0 ppm in 2015. This is all getting into ancient records territory. The last time our planet's atmosphere logged 403.3 ppm CO2 was about 3 million years ago.
“Globally averaged concentrations of CO2 reached 403.3 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, up from 400.00 ppm in 2015 because of a combination of human activities and a strong El Niño event,” according to The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the UN weather agency’s annual flagship report.
The last time Earth experienced similar CO2 concentration rates was during the Pliocene era (three to five million years ago), when the sea level was up to 20m higher than now.
“Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement,” World Meteorological Organisation chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
The momentum from the Paris accord in 2015 is faltering due to the failure of national governments to live up to their promises. In a report to be released on Tuesday, UN Environment will show the gap between international goals and domestic commitments leaves the world on course for warming well beyond the 2C target and probably beyond 3C. International efforts to act have also been weakened by US president Donald Trump’s decision to quit the accord.
Prof Dave Reay, professor of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This should set alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power. We know that, as climate change intensifies, the ability of the land and oceans to mop up our carbon emissions will weaken. There’s still time to steer these emissions down and so keep some control, but if we wait too long humankind will become a passenger on a one-way street to dangerous climate change.”
Just to refresh, let's unpack those warnings. We need "rapid cuts" in atmospheric greenhouse gas loadings. That's rapid as in R.F.N. Not some $20 a tonne carbon tax. Rapid, big, cuts - now. One part of that challenge is to rapidly decarbonize our societies and our economies. Another part is to find some damn way to capture massive quantities of atmospheric greenhouse gases. And this is no longer a matter of just man-made CO2 emissions either. We've awakened that sleeping giant, Earth, and it's now in the game of releasing massive amounts of once safely sequestered greenhouse gases - CO2 from overheated forests and soil as well as wildfires in our temperate forests and tundra plus mega-methane releases from thawing permafrost and melting seabed methane clathrates. So, kids, we have to wipe our own bottoms and Mother Nature's and those bottoms aren't getting any nicer with the passage of time.