CO2 400ppm and Mother Nature’s Wonders


My Back Yard

As I drove my children to their respective bus stops, we stopped to admire the incredible sunrise, and “take a moment” to be in awe of mother nature’s glories. We live 22 miles and a “world away” from midtown New York City in a bedroom community that is encompassed by and with many gifts from mother nature. A rabbit was crossing our driveway as I drove up to the garage; I noticed two deer in my neighbor’s yard grazing calmly on grass, almost like cows in a field; and just as I got out of my car I looked up to see four geese honking and soaring skyward, in a straight line right above my home.

For a moment this morning I forgot about the climate cliff we are barreling towards and the bleak future that is just over the horizon if we continue on this dangerous path. Just for a moment today, I was oblivious, as so many of my friends, neighbors and colleagues continue to be. THIS HAS TO CHANGE.

Hiding our heads in the sand and ignoring the realities of climate change, won’t make it go away. It won’t stop the seas from rising, and it won’t stop the floods and droughts and other extreme weather that is our now and our future. But this doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t “smell the roses” and enjoy the beauty around us, including the beauty of our children and grandchildren, in fact if we don’t remember these things, we will lose sight of why we need to take action.

We are crossing an interesting and telling threshold this year. The CO2 concentration in our atmosphere is reaching and will surpass 400

Photo Credit: The Climate Reality Project

parts per million (ppm) in 2013. Scientists tell us that 350ppm is the safe limit for the human species and for our planet earth to continue to operate as it does today. For scientists this milestone is another alarm bell, and for many others, just an interesting fact that is acknowledge and then put aside. What does this really mean? Here are some facts for you to share with the kids in your life about this “threshold and even number.”

1. Going back 800,000 years the level of CO2 in the atmosphere stayed within a band between180 and 280ppm.
2. Since the industrial revolution (mid 1800’s) the level of CO2 has risen over 40% and over the past 20 years this annual rise has been accelerating at a faster and faster rate.
3. According to an article in the May 10th, New York Times, the last time C02 levels reached this high was over 3 million years ago, dinosaurs ruled the earth and sea levels were 60-100 feet higher then today.

“What we see today is 100 percent due to human activity,” said Pieter Tans, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration senior scientist. The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, are the overwhelming cause of human generated carbon in the atmosphere.

I have personally visited the Mauna Loa observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii – twice in the last five years. I have been privileged to talk at length to scientists that work there about the daily record of CO2 levels that has been recorded at their observatory since the 1950s.

When I was last at the Mauna Loa Observatory, on December 29th, 2011, the C02 level was 392.14ppm. I was recorded on the side of the small vile of “air” I was given as a keepsake and have on my desk today. (You may notice the vile in my hand in this photo at the top of the graph). While at the same time that mother earth was sharing her wonders with me today, my heart grew a little sadder, as the weight of the climate crisis felt a whole lot heavier….

On the plus side (’cause I believe there ALWAYS is one) WE CAN do something about this and NOT accept rising levels of greenhouse gases as inevitable. We CAN fight back. We CAN stop burning fossil fuels, become more energy efficient and demand that we move towards and have access to an economy transformed by and with renewable energy. We need to talk about this serious and dangerous milestone with our kids, families and friends and we MUST create climate adaptation and mitigation plans at the family, community, regional and national levels.

It’s DO SOMETHING WEDNESDAY here at ClimateMama. So talk about this post with the kids in your life and DO SOMETHING as a family that will help us move way from the climate cliff and towards a sustainable, liveable future!


Climate Mama

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