CO2 Levels Go Over Tipping Point

We start at Cape Grim in Australia Today - where an atmospheric measuring station is picking up atmospheric CO2 levels that are on the verge of breaking 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. And unlike other measuring stations where concentrations fluctuate seasonally - the station at Cape Grim is in a region with stable CO2 concentrations - meaning CO2 levels in that area won't dip below 400 parts per million once it crosses that milestone.

On May 6th - scientists picked up a CO2 reading at Cape Grim of 399.9 parts per million - meaning that within weeks the reading will be permanently above 400 parts per million. This isn't the first station to cross the 400 ppm threshold - the first station to detect CO2 levels above 400 parts per million was the Mauna Loa observatory back in 2013. CO2 concentrations at the Mauna Loa observatory fluctuate throughout the year - but soon CO2 concentrations there will be so high that they'll never dip below 400 parts per million, either. And last March - the global monthly average using all global readings crossed 400 parts per million - which guarantees that truly dangerous global warming is inevitable.

James Butler - director of the global monitoring division as the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration - compared the situation to an electric blanket. He told the Guardian that "It's like lying in bed with your electric blanket set to three. You jack it up to seven - you don't get hot right away but you do get hot. And that's what we're doing." And that's the problem - it's difficult to know how much warming exactly we've guaranteed now that we're crossing the 400 parts per million threshold - especially considering that scientists said years ago that to avoid catastrophic warming we need to keep carbon concentrations below 350 parts per million.

What's clear is that yearly and monthly temperature averages have continued to break records regularly in the last couple of years - and with atmospheric CO2 concentrations at 400 parts per million - that trend will continue for years to come, even if we stopped emitting carbon completely today. The fossil fuel industry has blocked and disputed the science on climate change for so long now that now we can guarantee that the oceans will continue to acidify - warm - and lose oxygen - and we can guarantee that storms will get stronger - droughts will get worse - and communities will be devastated.

We need to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for misleading the public for so long and for guaranteeing that a child born today will never know a planet with CO2 concentrations below 400 parts per million - and we need to go 100% renewable immediately.



timallard's picture
timallard 6 years 46 weeks ago

The geologic context: Average CO2 rise-rate for the Pleistocene was ~1-ppm/1000-years, big jump up at the end of the last ice-age ~1-ppm/180-years we hit 3.05-ppm gained last year.

The rate-of-change is the problem along with how high ppm's get because that controls how high sea-level goes and it keeps rising well after we drop CO2 levels that's well after we end emissions, the planet isn't connected to slider switches.

We got commitment & wedding rings like at the altar for CO2 the wifey bulging with heat-pregnancy before the wedding at 400-ppm we own 25m/82ft more sea-level if it stops there at 400 ... we're only dealing with how fast it happens, eh?

So at 3-ppm/year we'll be commited to melting all the ice-sheets reaching 800-ppm within 130-years on a linear gain, they start really going fast at 600-ppm and the bonus is losing all meaningful coral reefs by 750-ppm.

The issue now is that we can't do squat about it because there's so much carbon up there now the heating wherever we get to will last 150,000-years, no shit Sherlock that CO2 in the sky takes a long time to remove, there are no practical ways of doing so.

[The Pliocene was a COOLING from the Miocene so 400-ppm's or so doesn't represent at all what we're doing today, with continued cooling from rock erosion & continental configurations the Quatenary Era of ice-ages began over millions of years.]

Nuff on the situation my solution to flipping the switch is to dam Bering Straits to stop warm Pacific Ocean water from entering the Arctic Basin, while not much current flow it destroys the sea-ice early.

This is a geophysical thermal switch to throw to re-establish sea-ice in the Eastern Arctic Ocean by a geographically unique opportunity to grow sea-ice in spite of our high CO2 levels and high air temperatures now in the Arctic, it's a physical solution.

Second suggestion to use sewage treatment plants to switch from chemicals to remove dissolved solids to be able to release the water to a water body to photo-bioreactors growing algae they remove the "nutrients" better than chemicals taking 2.5-days versus 6-hours the reason for growing 24x7 at a city plant to keep up with volume.

This supplies all local transportation biofuels, algae-to-crude now $7/gallon for bio-gasoline for those engines requiring it, most IC-engines run fine some better my design work from home-farm-ranch scale up so people can have biodiesel from their own sewage.

Insulate buildings from the outside, it's 3-4 times more efficient by turning the mass of whatever structure is there into a thermal-mass storing thermal-energy keeping the interior in the comfort range for heat or cooling applied.

Provide a thermal-mass storage for solar-thermal collections tied to the standard ductwork in buildings the key to taking 80% of the architectural electricity off the grid because that's how much of the power is used for Joules, heat, not electricity.

We are children at sustainable design, honor the Indigenous People, the Inca Emperor knew food security and hydrologic systems were tied indelibly, the modern Andean people know they're losing their water supply so restoring ancient water-works.

All societies must use rain-catchment and cisterns to handle new seasonal variability to when water falls from the jetstream distruptions. Consider using ballast-rock this a road-building material 40% voids the capacity of the cistern and you can drive on them, sealed with clays to sand-gravels to eliminate evaporation.

Consider the issue is to leave the Steam Age on electricity using way more storage as that's what makes solar-wind reliable once capacity is adjusted, battery-inverter arrays now in containers to 2-Mwh capacity provide on-phase, digitally regulated power no smart-grid required.

For windmills small towns can DIY small 2kw units to array on hillsides if vertical-axis these gain 10-times more power than the huge windmills and can be installed under them this a TED by the main researcher; "John Dabiri | Opportunities and Challenges for Next-Generation Wind Energy"; 25:13;

That's enough from me ... hth,

[Like many, fixed-income Nam Vet, like fewer Xbox Azure dude couldn't get a job too long in the down economy switching careers back to architecture & living system did that before first passive-solar homes 1980.]

gmiklashek950's picture
gmiklashek950 6 years 46 weeks ago

Last time I checked, we were often above 400ppm. But that's not the real problem. The true "upstream", source problem is the ongoing human population explosion--220,000 more humans, net, every day for the earth to house and feed. Even if we wake up and reduce our net reproductive rate to 0.5, with one-child families, we won't be back down to 1950 levels of 2.5 billion humans until 2,100. You might (or not! :)) want to check out my free e-book PDF, "Stress R Us". Just Google the title. Thanks Thom! From a fellow ex-SDSer, Gregg Miklashek, MD

Kilosqrd's picture
Kilosqrd 6 years 46 weeks ago

Oh my Lord, we are doomed. Party on, people.

Kilosqrd's picture
Kilosqrd 6 years 46 weeks ago

Reply to #2. According to Thom, fossil fuel billionaires are killing children. Celebrate. That helps the population explosion you are so concerned about.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 6 years 46 weeks ago

More than once I've come across stories about ancient military raids and expeditions that ended in death because the soldiers while looting loaded up with treasure instead of food and water.....this even after being warned about upcoming lengthy treks without those necessities being available. Guess what happened? Seems unlikely today's carbon baron billionaires would be that foolish, but then again?

Starving to death clutching a gold cross in place of food and water, or knowing your greed has sealed a miserable fate for your grandchildren are kind of the same numb nutted thing as far as I'm concerned.

The untold wealth that comes from looting the ground for fossil fuels will never replace the dwindling supply of food and water necessary to sustain life on our planet.

Larry Taylor's picture
Larry Taylor 6 years 46 weeks ago

I am promoting the Sheerwind Invelox system in Switzerland adn Kosovo. We need to go renewable, solar is good but doesn't offer a complete solution. Wind energy is possible only over 20% of the land. The range of conventional wind turbines (CWT) is 12-25 m/s. Over that speed the trubines have to be braked. By accelerating the wind, the Invelox can start at 1 m/s and can go above 25 m/s. Efficiency is increased from around 30% for CWT to 60-90%. The wind turbines are enclosed in a tube at ground level and can use up to 3 wind turbines. This means that wind power can be used in areas that CWT cannot be used. And we should buy EV since we will no longer be able to provide the fuel for convential automobiles. Get started now.

timallard's picture
timallard 6 years 44 weeks ago

The loss of albedo today equals about 20-years of CO2 heat-retention from emissions, 0.21-watts/m^2, it's a huge amount of direct heating.

No mention of this in Paris, it means all commitments must be doubled or tripled to meet stated goals, it's a huge deal to restore the Beaufort, it's the battleground lost in areal extent that was old ice before now too thin & already broken from shore this year.

The issue is a tipping point passed on the Beaufort Sea gaining too much heat exposed too long for fall cooling to remove it such it's melting out and degrading a huge area that until quite recently was old ice, 4-9 years and tens of feet thick to "rotten" ice over this entire area.

This season began weeks too early and exposed a huge amount of shoreline water, this shows the sequence in April:

This is a short video Applied Physics Lab, Unv. of Washington voyage last fall mid-October when the area was freezing up, a storm blew in and froze the surface also creating huge swells, it all melted off in very cold air the next day, surprising everyone aboard.

They found a warm layer only 20m down that mixed up in the swells, winds only 30-kn; 5:12;

Next is on "rotten" ice and correlating that with satellite interpretations, starts ab'ut 4-mins in of 9:49 [Dr. Barber is Canadian];

Last one is Jullienne Stroeve, Nat'l Snow & Ice Data Center, commenting on the melt season ending. Audio-only, the ice was 18% below normal; 6:14;

Basically there's no way this area will recover without a focused attention by the global community.

Latest on the dam is a revised construction strategy moved to St. Lawrence Island to make a seive-dam on the south side north side closed off to allow about 1-2 Yukon Rivers in flow volume and the rest is dammed off this allows nutrients & marine life to migrate freely and closes with less current.

This is a link to a large-scale current map of closing the northern channel as a first phase of construction. Notice how it extends the current flowing SE along the island, this will fight any northern flow in the narrower gap so overall the total flow will be much less arriving at Bering Strait:

Large pipes like used by the Army Corp for the New Orleans revision have foundations pre-cast and lowered the tops then added with a wire-rope net that rolls up from the bottom.

This is a porous "dam" restricting flow so much the water is higher on the Pacific side and that creates a pressure front that encourages the main flow-mass to continue past the island to the SE end where it fights the northerly flow to restrict it with this first phase of construction.

The wire nets give protection to place dredgings behind for the layers, flow restricted permanently as it rises by the time it's near the surface there will be very little overflow as the nets have closer spacing near the top.

Working on a soda straw & hot glue conceptual model ... few people take all this seriously it's like a last hurrah for Beaufort Sea ice to them, a geophysical, on-the-ground view of how to fix it by giving a still-water area to sustain a key melting point.

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