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Scary News: Carbon Dioxide Level Highest In 3 Million Years

Scary News: Carbon Dioxide Level Highest In 3 Million Years

It’s official, and it’s scary: on May 9, the daily average concentration of climate-warming carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere passed the milestone level 400 parts per million for the first time in human history.

Hooray for us humanoids. We are destroying our planet even faster than we realized, and we are moving into uncharted territory.

By analyzing fossil air trapped in ancient ice, along with other data, researchers have determined that the last time levels were this high was at least three million years ago, during the Pliocene epoch, long before the evolution of modern humans (that happened in East Africa, about 200,000 years ago). At the Pliocene time the Arctic was ice-free, the Sahara was covered in savannah, and the sea level was over 100 feet higher than it is today.

They believe that the Pliocene era conditions will return, with  devastating consequences for human life, if emissions of CO2 from the burning of coal, gas and oil are not rapidly cut back.

We Have Failed Miserably On Climate Change

From The Guardian:

“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.

Ralph Keeling, who runs another monitoring program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said a continuing rise could be catastrophic. “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds,” he said.

It’s not as if we haven’t been warned. A definitive scientific report in 2011 warned that extreme weather events linked to climate change will continue around the world in coming decades; President Obama spoke at his party’s convention in 2012 about his plan to continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet; the tab for last year’s extreme weather events in the U.S. will rise to well over $100 billion; the ice is melting in the Arctic.

We’ve been hearing these warnings for years, although of course if you live in Kansas or Oklahoma, your lawmakers will be encouraging you to deny the evidence.

But what we do know is that virtually every automobile ride, every plane trip and, in most places, every flip of a light switch adds carbon dioxide to the air, and relatively little money is being spent to find and deploy alternative technologies. And despite all the warnings, global emissions of CO2 continue to soar.

China Now The Largest Emitter Of CO2

According to The New York Times, China is now the largest emitter, but Americans have been consuming fossil fuels for far longer, so that means the United States is more responsible than any other nation for the high level.

What do the experts say?

From The Guardian:

“It is symbolic, a point to pause and think about where we have been and where we are going,” said Professor Ralph Keeling, who oversees the measurements on a Hawaian volcano, which were begun by his father in 1958. “It’s like turning 50: it’s a wake up to what has been building up in front of us all along.”

I wonder how long it will take for things to get shockingly bad before they get better.

Need To Fight Big Oil And Big Coal

A Senator from Oklahoma, James Inhofe has called climate change a hoax. He isn’t the only one representing the interests of Big Oil. There are many barons of industry, including the Koch brothers, who seem to not care at all about the future of our planet, or of humanity. As long as they can make a profit from fossil fuels, they are happy.

Perhaps our first step should be to work at limiting their power, and getting rid of the politicians who take money from them.

The extreme speed at which CO2 in now rising, perhaps 75 times faster than in pre-industrial times, has never been seen in geological records, and only by striving to reduce global emissions can we avoid the consequences of turning the climate clock back 3 million years.

This is a grim milestone. All our efforts at conservation, recycling, growing sustainable crops, are admirable, but only governments can make the big changes that are necessary to significantly reduce global emissions of CO2.

It’s time for change.

What do you think?


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Photo Credit: thinkstock

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4:24AM PDT on Jun 22, 2013

thanks for sharing

6:24PM PDT on May 25, 2013

What is the problem? You have basically agreed with my contention that over half the CO2 emittem by mankind is being removed naturally. This proportion has increased as the amount of CO2 emiting has increased. Since we agree, does that make you a corporate shill? Cletus has had a problem understanding this, which you claim a 8-yr could do.

I happen to agree with the majority of scientists. I disagree that we have reached a consensus, but is that a problem? Maybe, once we have solved the remaining uncertainties (clouds being a major issue), those on the extremes will join the fray.

I doubt that my grandchildren understand the issue enough to even have an opinion on it.

4:09PM PDT on May 25, 2013

not complicated to understand the facts, an eight year old could understand what's happening in the real world, and only an unethical corporate shill such as Dan B. who doesn't give a damn about the future of the earth and his children and grandchildren would deny this man made catastrophe.

Land plants remove 8.2 billion tons of C02 per year, and the oceans remove 12.2 billion tons yearly. That means 20.4 billion tons of CO2 is being removed from the atmosphere by earth's biosphere every year. Fossil fuel burning increases the CO2 release to 32.6 billion tons of CO2 and deforestation to another 4.1 billion tons, which is a total of 36.7 billion tons pumped into the atmosphere. 36.7 - 20.4 is 16.3 billion tons of additional CO2 accumulating in the world atmosphere every year. The oceans and biosphere are only capable of removing 55% (20.4 billion tons) of all the CO2 (36.7 billion tons) man and nature combined is making each year. Global Warming comes from the remaining 45% (16.3 billion tons) CO2 surplus. The excess man made CO2 is not recycled and it lingers in the upper atmosphere for an average of 100 years, while more of it is being released from oceans, ice and tundra in an accelerating pattern, which makes that CO2 (as opposed to water vapor, which cycles out of the atmosphere in two weeks) a dangerous greenhouse gas which has to be urgently addressed if overpopulated insane humanity is going to survive.

4:01PM PDT on May 25, 2013

Dan B. are you some kind of shill for the oil industry barons? Is your wacky personal scientific research based on political opinions better than 90% of the scientists who have reached overwhelming consensus after two decades of hard research with millions of dollars invested in every kind of scientific equipment known to measure the physical facts? It's you who are now under the obligation to disprove those scientists, and the evidence of everyone's eyes. It's your obligation to put up or shut up, nobody else's.

1:02PM PDT on May 25, 2013

While it is possible that you have written more scientific papers than myself, there are several clues in your posts that leads me to believe otherwise. First, your rantings and name-calling are more indicative of someone under the age of 30, than of someone with over 30 years of field experience. Secondly, most of the scientists with which I work are not adverse to referencing the work of others or to read referenced materials. Finally, your arguments are more akin to talk show host ramblings than of a scientist.

If you truly are a scientists, then you should be aware of many of the aspects surrounding the area of climate science. The idea that the climate is controlled by CO2 solely is only spread through the media and government agencies, and not scientific circles. You be well aware of the many searches for the cause(s) of the recent warming hiatus among even the most fervent adherers to the AGW theory. If you are truly as experienced as myself in the field that you will probably remember the solar dimming and global cooling theory. Your foolish attempts to denigrate your opponents rather than fortify your own position have diminshed your entire argument. It is time to show your stuff. Either put up or shut up. Prove your scientific worth.

9:00AM PDT on May 24, 2013

Dan B. -- It is very interesting that while you appear to want to distance yourself from "rightwing knuckleheads", you must have read Rush's book...where he encourages his intellectually lame adherents to make their own weaknesses the subjects of their attacks on their enemies, since you have the gall to charge me with "Refusing to read scientific journal articles and disrecarding scientific research because you do not like the results, is classic denialism." Now THAT is an accurate summation of YOUR own approach....and it is quite humorous and telling that you should try to pin that nonsense on me, since I have written more scientific papers than you'll ever read all the way through.

So don't try that sophomoric tripe with me.

BOTTOM LINE: do the calculation I requested of you and so become educated on one fact, or go packing knowing you are a proven climate fop.

You can lead a "horse" to water, but you can't make him grow a brain stem.

6:48AM PDT on May 23, 2013

I hope you are not as ignorant as you sound. Refusing to read scientific journal articles and disrecarding scientific research because you do not like the results, is classic denialism. Lumping everyone who does not agree with your narrow beliefs as right-wing knuckleheads, would indicate than 90%+ of this country is a member of the Republican tea party. How can anyone have a scientific discussion with you, if your entire argument rests on name-calling and denial.

It is hard for me to sympathize with you, when you support those who prey on the misfortunates of others - to whatever political party they belong.

3:21PM PDT on May 22, 2013

And Dan B., I must say that I am stunned by your insensitivity. Did you REALLY say that worse than the huge loss of property and devastating loss of life associated with the storm Sandy, is the fact that a few knuckleheads (some of them your own rightwing bretheren) tried to make political hay??!!!

Really?!!? Its just fine to endure the deaths of our fellow citizens, but god forbid we have to hear any of them politicize?!!! I'd love for you to take that story on the road to Long Island.

You are one malignant moron. So watch out now; Paul B. will start to feel threatened by your status.

3:12PM PDT on May 22, 2013

Dan B. -- You know you are finished when the likes of Paul B. comes to sling mud with you. I have sent that little monkey packing with his tail between his legs many times on Care2. He is yet another sophomoric fool like yourself, who thinks if he can string two sentences together while making reference to irrelevant, or at best mis-interpreted, stories with more than 3 paragraphs in it, then he has attained cogency. Have fun with that.

It is sublimely pathetic that Paul B. even mentions 'evidence', for he has not provided accurate, logically sustained evidence EVER on Care2 that I have encountered.

Your last response to me was useless, being merely one of sophomoric 'hope'. Please calculate the biomass needed to sequester 50% of the expected human-generated CO2 over just the next ~100 many forrests of how many trees of how much average volume is that? Where will this biomass grow and be left alone to continue its sequestration into the next ~100 years, and the next ~100 years......even as we now continue denude our planet of its mega-flora?

Your whole argument of plants absorbing CO2 is nothing more than deflective TRIPE when posited as some sort of natural defense against the growing amount of CO2 in our air and its effects on climate change.

It is indeed quite telling that two politically driven creatures, like you and Paul B., worry so much that my defense of the science enterprise is somehow politically motivated. Maybe you two should get ba

11:18AM PDT on May 21, 2013

Yes Paul,
Worse than the actually tragedy, are those who try to use it to their political advantage. The same thing happened after Sandy. I see what you mean about changing the subject whenever the evidence is against them.

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