Carbon Dioxide v. The Future of Our Planet

Image by Robert A. Rohde. Some rights reserved.

Image by Robert A. Rohde. Some rights reserved.

The big news on the world stage this week seems to be NBA center Jason Collins publicly acknowledging himself as a gay man (way to go Jason!), and while his announcement marks a victory for progressive politics in sports, a slightly darker milestone also approaches. Carbon dioxide sensors in Mauna Loa, Hawaii have been picking up dangerously high daily averages for CO2 this week and last – on April 25, the daily average was recorded to be 399.72 parts per million, only .28 ppm away from the symbolically significant 400 parts per million benchmark, a record high not yet reached since the station at Mauna Loa was first established.

Typically, annual highs of CO2 arrive in May, with incremental annual increases. This year, scientists predict that we will pass the 400 ppm mark for the first time, with researcher Ralph Keeling (a geologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, founders of the Mauna Loa station) adding ominously that “at this pace, we’ll hit 450ppm in a few decades” and that “If CO2 levels don’t top 400ppm in May 2013, they almost certainly will next year.”

As regular readers of this or other green blogs no doubt already know, CO2 levels have been steadily on the rise since the industrial revolution over two hundred years ago. Climate scientists most often relate that these CO2 levels should ideally remain below 350ppm to prevent rapid global temperature increases, so while crossing the 400ppm mile-marker does not signify a huge spike in CO2 levels beyond recent trends, it does represent a significant turning point and should ideally rally more international cooperation in reversing this gloomy trend.

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