05/19/2013

CO2 400 PPM Milestone Reached

Scientific reports indicate that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has just touched 400 PPM. Are we heading eyes wide shut to catastrophe?


The news that measurements of CO2 concentratio in the arctic have, for the first time in a VERY VERY long time (some estimates say 800,000 years) peaked at above 400 parts in a million (PPM). The well-known Keeling curve shows that the actual level should fall back shortly as the plants in the northern hemisphere grow and suck up some of the CO2, but in all likelihood it will rise again even higher next winter.

The general scientific opinion is that this raised level of CO2 is associated with Global Warming (I resist the renaming of this as Climate Change!). This, in turn, is widely believed to result in more weather extremes: given the number of exceptional events over the past year, this seems highly plausible.

In Geneva we are currently in the midst of the worst Winter and Spring for many years. The various crops are showing weeks of delay, farmers cannot plant new crops on sodden ground, and most of us townies still have the central heating systems working (normally from heating systems that burn fossil fuels!).

On this holiday weekend, as at Ascension, lots of peole have had quite enough of the rotten Spring, so what are they doing? Answer (quite often): head towards somewhere warm and bathed in sunshine. The queues of cars at the Gotthard tunnel are legendary, and most cars in a slow moving queue pollute the atmosphere. Other people are flocking to the airlines, most frequently the low-cost ones, so that adds still more pollution (at a higher altitude, which makes things worse). In other words, quite a lot of the reaction of people will reinforce the CO2 concentration in the longer term.

It is, of course, quite possible that at some time we get the other extreme of weather: sunshine and tmperatures approaching 40°C. What happens then? Well, we rush out in our air-conditioned car to buy air conditioning units for our homes! More energy, more CO2!

One day, history will pass judgement on us: I very much doubt whether that judgement will be favourable!

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