Greenhouse gas milestone; CO2 levels set record

Discussion in 'Emissions' started by JohnM, May 11, 2013.

  1. JohnM

    JohnM Well-Known Member

    Carbon dioxide was measured at 400 parts per million at the oldest monitoring station which is in Hawaii sets the global benchmark. The last time the worldwide carbon level was probably that high was about 2 million years ago, said Pieter Tans of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    That was during the Pleistocene Era. "It was much warmer than it is today," Tans said. "There were forests in Greenland. Sea level was higher, between 10 and 20 meters (33 to 66 feet)."
  2. elem

    elem Well-Known Member

    Thanks John

    It is sad, depressing and shameful...for this generation.
    Any idea where it will max out?

  3. mikeb

    mikeb Member

    If we continue the global policy of 'drill, baby, drill', and burn all possible coal, oil, and gas reserves, it'll easily climb well above 1,000ppm. The permafrost will melt, which could easily double the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and undersea frozen methane on the continental shelves will also melt. The feedback from those two effects might drive it well over 1,5000ppm (but few humans will be around to observe that).

    On the other hand, if we aggressively shift away from fossil fuels and address efficiency head-on, we might top out at 500ppm before the numbers start to drop back to safe levels. (International negotiations have set 450ppm as a target peak, but we're already failing to take the actions needed to halt at 450) Of course, it's possible that the melting permafrost and undersea methane will kick in while our aggressive actions are still taking effect, which might mean that stopping at 500ppm is impossible and we're going to reach 7-800ppm no matter what we do.

    The 350ppm benchmark is the last 'safe' value we know of, anything higher than that has a risk of dramatic positive feedback making it extremely difficult to halt the rise. We're already seeing melting permafrost and arctic amplification, but we don't yet know how fast or at what threshold it'll start to become a dominant influence. Most likely, if civilization is going to survive, we'll have to start a massive project of geoengineering and scrub excess CO2 from the atmosphere directly. The cost of this will be horrendous, but there won't be any viable alternative left.
  4. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Well-Known Member

    If we get extreme consequences
    No doubt BIG SCIENCE will come up with a POSSIBLE CURE
    Something pretty dangerous-like HUGE amounts of something to reflect light solar energy back into space
    Maybe send us into an ice age!!
  5. elem

    elem Well-Known Member

    Thanks John

    Good Summary of predictions.
    My analogy is that ;
    She is a very big ship, we have had our steering wheel ( CO2) stuck at high and she has started to move (temperature). Trying to swing back will have very little affect for a very long time. As you point out. permafrost melting will now take over. I expect 1000ppm max. i.e. all fossil fuels used up. I expect Human civilzation will continue.....but I am sure our descendants will not hold us in any high regard.

    Best of luck
    Last edited: May 12, 2013
  6. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Well-Known Member

    The solution is stop burning fossil fuels. There are no magic bullets - the risk of unintended consequences of some hastily conceived scheme is just not worth it. We know how to get plenty of energy from renewable sources and we just have to to do it.

    Four fifths of the known reserves of fossil fuels must stay in the ground, or we are toast.
  7. WriConsult

    WriConsult Super Moderator

    A couple of years ago it looked like we'd tapped out the cheap oil and CO2 would level off because we'd hit Peak due to supply constraints.

    No longer. The rise in crude prices triggered massive exploration and development efforts, and we're back to having enough oil to meet current demand for a loooong time.

    So now the only way to seriously rein in CO2 output is going to be self-restraint, possibly in the form of some sort of energy or carbon tax. And I don't think THAT is going to happen unless (er, until) GCC starts causing sustained severe economic damage in the US.

    Until then, we will still keep driving cars bigger than we need, faster than we need, and more miles than we need. We're going to keep building sprawling developments out in the middle of nowhere, and too many people will continue to put up with an hour or more of extra commuting so that they can buy "cheaper" housing, which all too often really means buying way more house and yard than they need for basically the same price they would have paid for a modest but big-enough house closer in. And the pattern of jobs decentralizing to the suburbs too will continue, forcing too many people to drive even if they've taken the initiative to live where they don't have to drive miles and miles to get to their stores, schools and churches. We'll continue to make fun of people who do manage ride the bus or get around by bike, and complain about (mostly alleged) "free ride" those folks are getting when they're actually saving the ASSES of those who drive their own asses around alone all the time.

    Believe it or not, by nature I'm an optimist. But not on this issue.
    Last edited: May 12, 2013

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