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Glimmer of Hope Even as Planet Hits CO2 Climate Milestone

Environment  (tags: climate-change, CO2emissions, climatechange, environment, globalwarming, globalwarming, greenhousegases, pollution, Sustainabililty, science, nature )

- 1836 days ago -
A new record level of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has been recorded at the Mauna Loa observatory on the island of Hawaii, the world's premier atmospheric monitoring station.

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Michael O (176)
Thursday May 9, 2013, 8:45 pm
By Bob McDonald, Quirks & Quarks

Meanwhile, one of the big three auto makers has signed an agreement to make its operations greener in the future.

The new level of 400 parts per million (ppm) is a significant signpost on the road to a warmer planet.

The Mauna Loa Observatory was established in 1958 to measure rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. It is considered the gold standard for global atmospheric composition because of its position in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, at an altitude of 3200 meters, in pristine air, far away from local effects caused by cities.

It is the best window into what's happening to the Earth's atmosphere as a whole.

When the observatory was established more than half a century ago, CO2 levels ranged between 270 and 300 ppm throughout the year, due to seasonal changes in vegetation. Since then, the steady rise towards 400ppm has been due to the dramatic increase in the use of fossil fuels over that same period.

The record from Mauna Loa is the longest continuous measurement of atmospheric carbon dioxide and indicates that the trend upwards is showing no signs of leveling off.

The current milestone is frightfully close to what is considered a tipping point of 450pmm, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is a point of no return for runaway global warming.

It is also a sad testament to the fact that, despite more than 50 years of scientific warning about rising CO2 levels and decades of political conventions about reducing carbon emissions, the levels in the atmosphere are still on the rise.

But while efforts to curb carbon emissions have been frustratingly slow on the political side, a glimmer of hope came from the corporate sector this week, as the auto giant General Motors signed a climate declaration with the business advocacy group Ceres.

GM has realized that going green is good for business, not to mention the public relations benefits.

That realization - that savings earned from investments in green technology will boost the bottom line - is the incentive that will drive real change in the corporate sector. The elephant in the room is finally turning in the right direction.

But while this is a good sign, it is only a small step. GM's declaration only details how they will reduce energy used in the manufacture of vehicles, not ways to improve the cars themselves, which are the main source of carbon emissions.

Most vehicles in the GM lineup - in fact, most cars produced in the world - are still powered by internal combustion engines, a technology that was invented more than a hundred years ago.

While modern vehicles are cleaner and more efficient than their 1960s gas-guzzling predecessors, the combustion engine is still dirty and inefficient, using less than 20 per cent of the energy in gasoline to turn the wheels. The rest of the energy is lost as heat through the radiator and tailpipe, along with a lot of carbon dioxide.

That's simply the nature of the combustion engine and it won't get much better, no matter how much it is tweaked and tuned. It's time to let it go.

True, GM has produced the Chevy Volt, an electric car with a small gas engine that is only used to charge the batteries, making it one of the most efficient cars on the road. That's another step in the right direction.

So , how long will it take before all vehicles in the GM lineup are electric hybrids or totally electric, and carbon emissions really start to come down?

The steadily rising curve on the Mauna Loa chart is the reality of changes taking place in the Earth's atmosphere, caused by big industry. It's now time for industry to get ahead of that curve before it rises out of reach.

Anne F (17)
Thursday May 9, 2013, 8:49 pm
not sure that personal use vehicles (especially heavy and speedy, used for short trips) are going to be part of the good life in decades ahead

James Merit (144)
Thursday May 9, 2013, 11:25 pm
Thank you for info.

Darren W (218)
Friday May 10, 2013, 1:58 am
A glimmer needs to be stretched a little more... those with power and influence, need to work on this...

mag.w.d. Aichberger (34)
Friday May 10, 2013, 6:30 am
> It's now time for industry to get ahead of that curve before it rises out of reach.
time's are overdue for people of Earth to realize that industry in the current $y$tem will kill Earth before doing that, and to do away with the current (socio-economic&power-)$y$tem and industries.

Or go extinct.

> those with power and influence, need to work on this...
those "with power and influence" [in ANY power-hierarchical system; and especially so in the current globally-escalated capital-fascis onet] will not and cannot
recommended viewing: "Defense Against the Psychopath" (utube, 38 nmin)


Isa Villanen (44)
Saturday May 11, 2013, 4:35 pm
Thanks again Michael!
Just so, and we just must keep on fighting against the windmilles, but we can and we will. We are a force of nature, literally.
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