Atmospheric CO2 concentrations cross the 400ppm threshold for the first time

Atmospheric CO2 concentrations broke through the 400ppm threshold for the first time in 800,000 years in May at 7 monitoring stations around the Arctic circle, according to an announcement from NOAA.

 

“The northern sites in our monitoring network tell us what is coming soon to the globe as a whole. We will likely see global average CO2 concentrations reach 400 ppm about 2016."

Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL).

 

atmospheric-C02-concentrations-Mauna-LoaAverage global atmospheric CO2 concentrations are also predicted to rise above 400ppm by 2016, from around 280ppm prior to the industrial revolution, and 390.4ppm in 2011.

These concentrations of atmospheric CO2 already guarantee that we have already built in a significant level of warming for the planet even if we stopped burning fossil fuels entirely, as there is a huge amount of thermal inertia from the worlds oceans and land mass that means we won't see the full impact of todays greenhouse gas concentrations for several decades.

 

Runaway Greenhouse Effect?

The higher we allow these concentrations to rise, the greater the chances that we will end up in a catestrophic runaway greenhouse effect scenario as feedback mechanisms such as the release of methane from melting arctic permafrost and subsea methane clathrates, increased heat absorption by the dark ocean and land after reflective ice melts etc.

We really are taking a gamble with rapidly increasing levels of risks for the lives and lievelihoods of the 7 billion people on this planet the higher we allow greenhouse case concentrations to rise.

Once they've risen, this really isn't a genie that we can put back into the bottle, and within a few generations our descendents really could see global climate conditions return that the world hasn't seen since the dinousaurs were last roaming the earth.

 

400ppm should be a wake up call for our politicians

The fact that we're crossing this 400ppm milestone far earlier than even the IPCC's worst case scenarios from their 1990's reports clearly demonstrates the abject failure of the world's politicians to take the threat from Climate Change seriously and enact the measures that are needed to actually prevent it from becoming the stuff of science fiction nightmares.

rate-of-increase-in-CO2-concentrationsThis generation of the world's politicians should hang their heads in shame at their record, which has seen the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations actually go up significantly in the decade from 2000-2010, vs a slight reduction in this rate in the 1990s.

Seriously, shame on all who've held office since 2000.

We hope that the crossing of this psychological barrier might serve to concentrate our politicians minds, and that they might now realise that we need action not more hot air.

Meantime this clearly emphasises the importance for all of us to do whatever we can to reduce our own individual contributions to these rising CO2 concentrations through energy efficiency measures and of course the small scale renewable energy installations such as the solar PV and solar water heating systems that Leeds Solar install.

 

A low carbon Marshall Plan for the world economy?

In these harsh economic times, it would be easy for the politicians to use 'austerity' as an excuse for inaction, but this would be a spectacular own goal for which histroy would judge them very badly.

The move to a low carbon economy requires massive global investment in new energy infrastructure, renewable energy, and energy efficiency measures. This can be sufficient to act as the missing 'growth engine' for the entire world economy, acting as the type of keynsian stimulus package that dragged the world out of the last depression in the 1930's, and rebuilt Europe and Asia after WWII.

We believe the scale of the economic activity needed is such that it could create a near full employment situation for the first time since the 60s, reducing the UK's balooning balance of trade deficit, creating long term energy security, and allowing the indebted developed nations to not just reduce their deficits, but also to actually pay off their debts because of the increased tax receipts and reduced welfare payments a near full employment economy would bring.

Best of all, most of these jobs aren't jobs that can be exported, as the work installing these measures has to be physically carried out in the country the energy is being used in, although there could also be a lot more UK manufacturing involved if we had a sensible industrial policy.

 

Another World is Possible

As Germany has demonstrated, solar PV can have a massive part to play in a low carbon energy future, with solar PV reaching the landmark of supplying 50% of total German electricity demand at one point last weekend after they added a further 7GWp of solar PV last year.

After a slow start, the UK solar PV industry grew to install over 1GWp of solar PV last year up from a few tens of Megawatts the year before, and could easily reach 20GWp by 2020 if the industry overcomes extreme levels of Government ineptitute in its mismanagement of the Feed In Tariff scheme.

As Reclaim The Streets used to put it 'Another World Is Possible', we just have to get on and turn it from a possibility to a reality as soon as we can. 

Leeds Solar suggest we all start today with whatever action we can take now, then think about what else we can do once we've taken those first steps, intead of spending another generation pontificating about the situation.

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