Climate scientists are warning the public that Earth has reached a grim milestone. According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has topped 400 parts per million, a level not seen in over two million years.
The 400 ppm threshold has been an important marker in U.N. climate change negotiations, widely recognized as a dangerous level that could drastically worsen human-caused global warming.
At the same time, a truly remarkably set of paleoclimate data shows the climate is much more sensitive to CO2 than we thought. And that means returning as quickly as possible back to 350 ppm is a vastly more rational course of action for a non-suicidal civilization, than, say continuing our unrestrained march toward 600 ppm, then 800, and then 1000.
Since humans started pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in large quantities with the beginning of the industrial revolution in the mid-1700s, CO2 concentrations have increased about 50 percent. To put it another way, today’s CO2 concentrations are about 50 percent higher than at their interglacial peaks, going back at least 800,000 years, as estimated from the longest Antarctic ice core. And they are climbing at the highest rates in measured time. Two-thirds of the increase in industrial times has taken place in just the last half century, since Charles Keeling set up instruments on Mauna Loa to measure CO2 in the late 1950s.
“The last time in the Earth’s history when we saw similar levels of CO2 in the atmosphere was probably about 4.5 million years ago when the world was warmer on average by three or four degrees Celsius than it is today,” Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, told the Financial Times. “There was no permanent ice sheet on Greenland, sea levels were much higher, and the world was a very different place.”
“If you’re looking to stave off climate perturbations that I don’t believe our culture is ready to adapt to, then significant reductions in CO2 emissions have to occur right away,” Mark Pagani, a Yale geochemist and paleoclimatologist, told the New York Times. “I feel like the time to do something was yesterday.”
It is worth noting that a 2009 analysis in Science found that when CO2 levels were this high 15 to 20 million years ago, it was 5° to 10°F warmer globally and seas were also 75 to 120 feet higher.
A new report out today shows that over 30 million people were displaced by climate-related extreme weather events … [Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre Publications]
The Global Estimates report reveals that 32.4 million people were forced to flee their homes in 2012 by disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes. While Asia and west and central Africa bore the brunt, 1.3 million were displaced in rich countries, with the USA particularly affected.
98% of all displacement in 2012 was related to climate- and weather-related events, with flood disasters in India and Nigeria accounting for 41% of global displacement in 2012. In India, monsoon floods displaced 6.9 million, and in Nigeria 6.1 million people were newly displaced. While over the past five years 81% of global displacement has occurred in Asia, in 2012 Africa had a record high for the region of 8.2 million people newly displaced, over four times more than in any of the previous four years.
But don’t expect America’s corporatist government to interfere with any of the fossil fuel companies desires to exploit the climate change issue for their own gain. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released a bellicose op-ed in Huffington Post, stating America’s intention to dominate the melting Arctic’s fossil fuel potential:
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.
PROSPEROUS ARCTIC??? And they say black folks don’t care about climate change? President Obama surely wants to continue the our species slow march towards destruction all in the name of corporate profits. I’m no psychic, but taking into account the aforementioned statement from Secretary Kerry, I’m predicting that the expansion of that nasty Keystone XL pipeline will be approved in the future by the Obama Administration … just all part of business as usual. Forward, right?
I’m sure most folks of color who are unfortunately on the wrong side of the suicidal climate policies of the American and European governments and multinational fossil fuel companies will join the activists around the globe to halt and destroy our dependence on fossil fuels.
For more on this story take a look at this Democracy Now! report: