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Carbon Dioxide Now at Troubling New Milestone of 400 PPM

Jonathan Smith's picture
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  • Jun 1, 2012 7:31 pm GMT
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Rebecca Leber reports that “the world’s air has reached what scientists call a troubling new milestone for carbon dioxide, the main global warming pollutant.”

Monitoring stations across the Arctic this spring are measuring more than 400 parts per million of the heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere. The number isn’t quite a surprise, because it’s been rising at an accelerating pace. Years ago, it passed the 350 ppm mark that many scientists say is the highest safe level for carbon dioxide. It now stands globally at 395. [Washington Post]

It’s been at least 800,000 years — probably more — since Earth saw carbon dioxide levels in the 400s….

Readings are coming in at 400 and higher all over the Arctic. They’ve been recorded in Alaska, Greenland, Norway, Iceland and even Mongolia. But levels change with the seasons and will drop a bit in the summer, when plants suck up carbon dioxide, NOAA scientists said.

“It’s an important threshold,” said Carnegie Institution ecologist Chris Field, a scientist who helps lead the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “It is an indication that we’re in a different world.”

Image Credit: David Carillet/Shutterstock

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Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Jun 2, 2012

“But levels change with the seasons and will drop a bit in the summer, when plants suck up carbon dioxide, NOAA scientists said.”  This is the first mention I’ve seen on TEC that plants show an effect on CO2.

Imagine if a water policy were developed to enlarge forest and grassland health. Instead we watch them get plowed up, dried up, and burned down.

Perhaps TEC is futile.

Rajat Sen's picture
Rajat Sen on Jun 2, 2012

Carbon di-oxide levels in the atmosphere is rising — that by itself is an accepted fact and not news. The debate is about what impact rising carbon di-oxide level will have and accepting that will likely be adverse what are we willing to do to mitigate that impact. Seems to be the answer is unamibigous — precious little except for a lot of talk. The only practical way we can reduce carbon di-oxide emissions is by increasing the cost of energy that we need either to maintain our standard of living or, in many developing countries, to improve the standard of living of millions of very poor people. We are not prepared to do that. Seems to me that the only viable option is to spend increasing amounts in RD&D in carbon free energy technologies and hope that they will be competitive, sooner rather than later, and replace the fossil fuel based energy technologies. That is even tough to contemplate as the world economy is in the middle of a slow down and Europe in the middle of a full fledged financial crisis, The outlook is dim for the near future. 

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