Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego confirms findings May 9; world’s top scientists call for action
By Miriam Raftery
May 10, 2013 (San Diego) -- Measurements around the world confirm that the rise in carbon dioxide levels have surpassed 400 parts per million –the highest in our planet’s history.
Before the industrial revolution in the 1900s, when coal and oil began to be burned on a large scale, C02 levels were never higher than 280 ppm.
But in recent years, the levels have risen 100 times faster than after the last ice age—providing clear evidence that the rise is far beyond any cyclical changes ever seen before. In fact, leading scientists around the world warn, climate change may soon be irreversible unless drastic changes are made to reduce this level to 350 ppm or lower.
Readings of just over 400 ppm were made on May 9 by two sets of instruments operated by Scripps Institute of Oceanography and by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. Recently measures of 400 mph were also found in Arctic sites for the first time.
“What happens from here on still matters to climate, and it’s still under our control,” said Ralph Keeling, who tookover measurements of the greenhouse gases for Scripps after the death of his father, Charles Keeling, who pioneered the global monitoring network. “It mainly comes down to how much we continue to rely on fossil fuels for energy.”
At the Global Monitoring Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, NOAA senior scientist Pieter Tans confirmed, “The evidence is conclusive that the strong growth of global C02 emissions from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving the acceleration.”
View video, "What we know for sure", prepared by an international organization of climate experts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=40bvE2P9BMQ
Once emitted, CO2 aded to the atmosphere and oceans remains for thousands of years. It also makes oceans acidic, which at 450 ppm would dissolve coral reefs, scientists predict. With C02 levels rising at 2 ppm a year, we are on track to hit that point of no return within 25 years if nothing is done, scientists warn.
Already, glaciers around the world are melting at record pace, contributing to a gradual rise in sea levels that could accelerate and submerge many coastal areas if global warming continues unabated.
Climate change is also leading to increased drought (this is among the driest years on record), worse and more severe wildfires and hurricanes. (2013 is predicted to be one of the worst wildfire seasons ever, NOAA has predicted, releasing maps showing record dry conditions across the western U.S.)
James Hansen of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was the first scientist to warn about global warming over 20 years ago. “We need to stop taking carbon out of the ground and putting into the air,” he has stated, calling for alternative fuels and conservation as well as improved forestry and agricultural practices. “But the longer we remain in the danger zone—above 350—the more likely that we will see disastrous and irreversible climate impacts.”
Britain’s Prince Charles declared this week, “Climate change skeptics are turning the earth into a dying patient.”
Today, economist and climate change expert Lord Stern reacted to news that the 400 ppm threshold had been reached by predicting that if this trend is not halted soon, famine across the globe will occur. "Hundreds of millions of people will be forced to leave their homelands because their crops and animals will have died,” he predicted today, the Guardian newspaper in London reported.
Skeptics of climate change have refused to take the warnings of top scientists seriously. Republican Senator James Inhofe, editor of the climate-skeptic blog Climate Depot, posted that “Americans should welcome the 400 parts-per-million threshold. This means that plants are going to be happy, and this means that global-warming fearmongers are going to be proven wrong.”
Scientists have rushed to debunk skeptics, noting that such beliefs are based on propaganda and phony experts funded by the oil and coal industry-- not based on any scientific data.
Melanie Fitzpatrick, climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, released a statement calling the newest levels a “wake-up call.”
She concluded, “Reaching 400 parts per million represents a dire experiment with the climate system. As long as humans have walked the Earth, we’ve never seen carbon dioxide levels this high.”
The organization 350.org (http://350.org) has information on steps you can take to help halt or reverse climate change.