Carbon Dioxide Passes 400 parts per million, Threatens Climate Catastrophe

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached the milestone of 400 parts per million, something not seen on earth for 2 or 3 million years. This time, it is driven by human emissions from burning coal, natural gas and petroleum.

Climate change at this pace threatens 50,000 plant and animal species over the next 80 years, and it isn’t entirely clear if the human species can survive in the new, unstable climate conditions we are creating.

Past periods of high carbon concentrations (then caused by volcanoes) led to a world with a third less land mass because of rising seas, no surface ice, tropical conditions everywhere including Antarctica, fish die-off from acid oceans, massive hurricanes, and storms and droughts that lasted for many years. Humans arose and are adapted to a colder world characteristic of the past 200,000 years, and may not be able to survive Tropical World 9 degrees F. / 5 degrees C. hotter than ours.

Environmentalists should make a full court press to close the 600 US coal plants, which represent a lion’s share of this country’s carbon emissions. That should be task number one. This pipeline thing is not unimportant, but it pales in comparison to the coal threat.

Amy Goodman interviews Michael Mann:

10 Responses

  1. Active Countermeasures must be implemented to deal with this threat to us all. We are way beyond nipping the problem in the bud. There has been a lack of political will to address the problem openly. Once we start labeling people for the traitors to humanity that they are we have tacken the first step towards reestablishing sanity. Once moral leadership has been establsihed we can then take actions to reduce the temptation towards irresponsible anti social behavior. When we combine the proper behavior of a much greater part of our population AND TAKE ACTIVE COUNTERMEASURES such as increasing the amount of cloud reflecting agents in the atmosphere then and only then we might have a chance to avoid a mass die off…..Unless we make things even worse.
    But if we kill everyone instead of 95% of everyone can people say that we really made things worse?
    To prove that I am really serious about doing what it takes
    I will go to a Major NASCAR race and stand in front of everyone and call for a speed limit of 75 miles per hour to be imposed during all NASCAR events. If I do not make it out alive at least I will no longer be contributing to the problem.
    Sacrices, reasonable risks and most of all team work is what it will take from everyone so that no one gets left behind.
    Well so that no one gets left behind except for those people who will refuse to be reasonable by MY definition of reasonable.

  2. …and our long-jawed, perfectly coiffed, Well-Suited Secretary of State tells us he is going North to the “northermost city in Sweden” to carve up the newly dying corpse of that latest and maybe Last Frontier (?nope, there’s still The Ocean, water column and seabed and everything in, on and under it to carve up and extract) called “the Arctic Region,” where in a mindlessly self-revealing, almost consciously self-satirical piece that his writers must have worried over for hours, in the old Huffpost, he offers the great image of the commercialization and consumption of Whatever Is Left —

    …the Arctic’s ecosystem is experiencing significant, rapid shifts with far-reaching consequences. Last September, the extent of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean reached record lows, threatening marine mammal life and local populations dependent upon them. Receding sea ice might also bring new commerce and industry to the region, including exploration of offshore oil and gas, as well as minerals. New Arctic shipping routes could significantly decrease transit times between Pacific and Atlantic ports.

    All of the changes in the Arctic must change the way we approach the region. The Obama administration’s new National Strategy for the Arctic Region prioritizes domestic infrastructure development as Arctic conditions change, responsible stewardship, and enhanced cooperation with our international partners. We’re focused on ensuring a secure, peaceful, and prosperous Arctic.

    link to huffingtonpost.com

    “Responsible stewardship?” Aaayup, as they say in Massachusetts.

  3. We may not avoid flooding a third of the Earth’s land mass and jeopardizing the very existence of our species and countless others. And already today, more than a million world-wide die every year of bad air quality from combustion of carbon based fuels, including biomass.

    We can’t really do anything about it, since the only proven fix seems to force humanity to make a wildlife reserve out of a town every 25 years or so. Obviously we can’t have that.

    • Solar and wind are now at grid parity, so coal could be banned without much cost except building the new power plants, which would help jump-start the economy.

      • Don’t forget conservation. Wind power can’t be scaled up to provide full power at first-world consumption, though solar can. But power consumption can be scaled down with energy-efficient housing retrofits, shift from suburban single-family housing to urban apartment buildings (which is necessary to reduce transportation emissions too), and accelerated shift to more energy-efficient appliances. More than a quarter of US electricity production is already very low-carbon, mainly hydro with some nuclear and a bit solar/wind, and a large reduction in power consumption means less needs to be built.

      • Juan, I’ve explained grid parity before. The principle of charity compels me to assume that you didn’t read it. Please read this:

        Grid parity is when coal costs, for example, 3 cents to produce, 2 cents to transmit, 1 cent in profits and 2 cents in taxes, while solar PV on your roof cost you 3+2+1+3 = 9 cents to produce (if you get some tax breaks, are optimistic regarding the longevity and performance of the installation and don’t consider interest).

        Since you don’t go off-grid, you keep the grid connection but avoid some costs that will have to be borne by neighbors. You also contribute less to corporate profits that will end up in pension funds and investments, and you contribute less to taxes that are used for public good.

        In short, grid parity means you substitute a lot of “movement of money” inherent in the large-scale production, with actual resource consumption in your own installation. Because only the production costs are real consumption. And in my example, the society as a whole devotes three times as much resources to solar than to coal, even at grid parity.

        Also, grid parity doesn’t apply to typical wind, since most installations are large scale businesses, not single-family installations.

        And finally, even if costs were equal at low penetrations, wind and solar, if scaled, lose much of their value since the production then doesn’t match demand. This means you get increasingly stranded resources that goes to waste. Of course, there is ideas to combat this, such as pumped hydro, enormous long-distance grids, smart grids, battery backup and such. But all this increase the cost of wind and solar.

        • You are leaving out the cost of climate change; it is a trick not to count against coal all the public health and environmental damage it causes.

        • Jesper, the other costs you mention are also real. If it costs 2 cents to transmit the electricity, it’s a real cost that you can avoid by putting the panels directly over your house’s roof. The same is true of profits and overhead: coal entrepreneurs are doing some work in figuring out how to mine, transport, and burn the fuel, just like the coal miners and the power plant workers. With solar power there’s also profit and overhead going to the PV cell manufacturers, but that’s already included in the cost of the installation.

          To the extent that the taxes are meant to cover air pollution, they’re also real. The issue is that the taxes don’t actually come remotely close to covering the cost of climate change; they’d at least double the cost of coal-fired electricity if they did.

  4. I’m 67, so I doubt I will suffer too much before i die. but for anyone under 50, I’m afraid the future looks bleak. Unless there is major engineering improvements that allow a massive removal of carbon already in the environment, even if the amount of carbon being added to the environment is drastically cut back in a relatively short time period (unlikely), it will be too late to stop serious damage to the ecosystems because of the long buildup that has gotten us to this point. Worse, we may be close to initiating feedback loops that set into effect runaway warming. Humanity will probably survive, but on a much smaller scale and no telling how much of civilization will endure. And all because of the uber greedy elites and their ignorant followers who refuse to face the facts. I wish I could be more optimistic, but the political climate right now in the US is more backward, reactionary and downright delusional than at any time in my life.

  5. I trust that’s what all the stupid current wars are about, namely saving the planet, with a massive breeding program for that extra impact, and worry not, once Australia builds that coal-fuelled desalination plant, everything will go back to normal.

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