atmospheric CO2 concentration synthesizing ice core proxy data 650,000 years in the past capped by modern direct measurements. Graph courtesy of NASA. Click to enlarge.
Carbon dioxide now makes up around 395 parts per million in the atmosphere, according to new data from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Measuring atmospheric carbon in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, the NOAA notes that last year saw a jump of 2.67 parts per million, second only to a record jump in carbon concentrations in 1998—2.93 parts per million. The news further dampens hopes that nations will stick to their goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
Scientists told the Associated Press that the jump in atmospheric carbon was likely due to increased fossil fuel burning in developing countries, especially China. In addition, they say that last year the world’s oceans and plants did not absorb as much carbon as usual.
By trapping heat in the atmosphere, rising levels of carbon dioxide are rapidly heating the planet. To date, global temperatures have risen by about 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Celsius) in the last century.
Global warming is causing a wide-variety of impacts already including rising sea levels, melting Arctic sea ice, vanishing glaciers, worsening severe weather, exacerbating floods and droughts, seasonal shifts, and species migrations. As the Earth continues to warn, scientists expect large-scale human migrations from islands and low-lying coastal areas, repeated crises for global agriculture, mass extinction, and possibly increased human conflict.
Last month, Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), dubbed climate change “the greatest economic challenge of the 21st Century.”
“The science is sobering—the global temperature in 2012 was among the hottest since records began in 1880. Make no mistake: without concerted action, the very future of our planet is in peril,” she said. “So we need growth, but we also need green growth that respects environmental sustainability. Good ecology is good economics. This is one reason why getting carbon pricing right and removing fossil fuel subsidies are so important.”
In response to climate change, nations have pledged to keep temperatures below the 2 degree Celsius target. However, to date, not enough has been done to ensure temperatures will not rise significantly higher. Many developing nations, including China and India, continue to build coal-fired power plants, which are the world’s most carbon-intensive energy source. Meanwhile, richer nations, such as the U.S. and Canada, have failed to treat climate change as a priority. The U.S. still has no national legislation to deal with carbon emissions, while it’s neighbor to the north, Canada, has backed away from past pledges to expand its tar sands industry for carbon-intensive oil.
Global warming to open new Arctic sea lanes
(03/05/2013) Rapidly melting sea ice in the Arctic due to global warming will open new shipping lanes that will speed transit between northern Asia, Europe, Canada and Alaska but unleash new safety, environmental and legal issues, according to scientists writing in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Tokelau, 1st county with 100% renewable energy, leads call for climate action
(03/02/2013) The tiny territory of Tokelau is today leading a call by 14 Pacific island nations for the world to take action to stop climate change.
Good news about climate change? Evolving technology could make cleaning the air more profitable than fouling it
(02/26/2013) In the wake of the hottest and driest summer in memory throughout much of North America, and Super-storm Sandy that flooded cities and ravaged large swaths of the Mid-Atlantic coast, many now recognize that the climate change isn’t just real, but that it is already at our doorstep. As this realization continues to sink in, the political will may ripen to take more aggressive action to put a brake CO2 emissions. Already, President Obama, who had remained mostly silent on the issue during his reelection campaign, has made it clear that tackling climate change will be among his top second-term priorities. But the fact remains that even if the entire world switched magically to 100 percent solar and other non-polluting power sources tomorrow, it’s too late to roll back some of the impacts of climate change.
Rise in 1.5 degrees Celsius likely to spark massive greenhouse gas release from permafrost
(02/25/2013) While nations around the world have committed to keeping temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial era, new research published in Science suggests that the global climate could hit a tipping point at just 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.5 degrees Fahrenheit). Studying cave stalactites and stalagmites in Siberia, scientists found that at about 1.5 degrees Celsius the Siberian permafrost melts, potentially releasing a greenhouse gas bomb of 1,000 giga-tonnes, according to some experts.
Arctic sea ice volume plunges over a third in less than 10 years
(02/18/2013) Few places are changing as rapidly as the Arctic due to global warming. Last year, scientists were stunned when the Arctic’s seasonal ice extent fell to record low that was 18 percent below the previous one set in 2007. But new research in Geophysical Research Letters finds that the volume of ice is melting away just as quickly: satellite and ocean-based measurement have found that Arctic sea ice has fallen by 36 percent in Autumn since 2003. In winter, the ice volume has dropped 9 percent.
Over 35,000 march on Washington demanding climate action and rejection of Canada’s ‘carbon bomb’
(02/18/2013) Yesterday over 35,000 people rallied in Washington D.C. for urgent action on climate change, which, according to organizers, was the largest climate march in U.S. history. Activists called on the Obama Administration to do much more to tackle climate change, including rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would bring carbon-heavy tar sands oil from Canada through the U.S. to a world market.
Will Amazon species lose the climate change race?
(02/14/2013) Deforestation could increase the risk of biodiversity loss in the Amazon by forcing species to migrate further in order to remain at equilibrium with changing climates, says new research. “As migration models are made more realistic through the inclusion of multiple climatic, biotic, abiotic and human factors, the predicted distances between current and future climate analogues invariably increases,” Kenneth Feeley, lead author of the paper published in Global Change Biology, told mongabay.com.
Obama connects climate science and policy in State of the Union
(02/13/2013) After several years of silence on climate change, U.S. President Barack Obama has begun speaking out following his re-election last November. The President surprised many by giving climate change a central role in his inauguration speech last month, and he followed-up in his State of the Union speech last night when he called on congress to “pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change,” but added that the administration would take action itself if congress failed.
Head of IMF: climate change is ‘the greatest economic challenge of the 21st century’
(02/06/2013) Climate change not debt or austerity is “the greatest economic challenge of the 21st Century,” according to Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Lagarde painted a stark picture of the challenges the world faces when up against rising temperatures.