Who will tell Trump we have just breached the 410 ppm threshold for CO2?

One day before the March for Science was held globally to mark Earth Day, Scientific American reported the world had just passed another round-numbered climate milestone just as had been predicted. 

The March for Science aimed to show the importance of evidence-based science to society and political decision-making and to protest against US President Donald Trump’s cuts to science funding and his denial of climate change.

The Mauna Loa Observatory last week recorded its first-ever carbon dioxide reading in excess of 410 parts per million (410.28 ppm if you want precision).  Carbon dioxide hasn’t reached that height in millions of years.

This attests to the atmosphere trapping more heat and causing the climate to change at a quickening rate.

Carbon dioxide was measured at 280 ppm when record keeping began at Mauna Loa in 1958. In 2013, it passed 400 ppm.

The latest readings were first reported in Climate Change and reproduced by Scientific American.

“Its pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled,” Gavin Foster, a paleoclimate researcher at the University of Southampton told Climate Central last month. “These milestones are just numbers, but they give us an opportunity to pause and take stock and act as useful yard sticks for comparisons to the geological record.”

Earlier this year, UK Met Office scientists issued their first-ever carbon dioxide forecast. They projected carbon dioxide could reach 410 ppm in March and almost certainly would by April.

Carbon dioxide concentrations have skyrocketed over the past two years, in part due to natural factors like El Niño causing more of it to end up in the atmosphere. But it’s mostly driven by the record amounts of carbon dioxide humans are creating by burning fossil fuels, according to the Climate Central report.

“The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease,” Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said. “But carbon dioxide will still be going up, albeit more slowly. Only when emissions are cut in half will atmospheric carbon dioxide level off initially.”

Even when concentrations of carbon dioxide level off, the impacts of climate change will extend centuries into the future, the article said.

The planet has already warmed 1.8°F (1°C), including a run of 627 months in a row of above-normal heat. Sea levels have risen about a foot and oceans have acidified. Extreme heat has become more common.

Trump Administration decision-makers, alas, probably won’t bother reading the article or its advice that the impacts will last longer and intensify even if carbon emissions were cut.

“But we face a choice of just how intense they become based on when we stop polluting the atmosphere.”

The grim portent is that we’re on track to create a climate unseen in 50 million years by mid-century.


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