We have achieved a 400 parts per million (PPM) concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. The May 9, 2013 measurement of carbon dioxide by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed we passed that milestone. This is not the first time this has happened. Ice cores show the Earth achieved this concentration about 2,200,000 years ago in the Pliocene period. That was a time when there was no ice in the Arctic and the average summer temperatures in the Arctic were above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scientists around the world have watched with increasing dread as concentrations of carbon dioxide have climbed from 280 PPM before the industrial revolution, to 316 PPM when they started scientific monitoring in the 1960’s, to 400 PPM now. They have sounded an alarm as the major nations in the world are failing to tangibly act to slow the climate change.
According to a new report issued by Globe International written with the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics a few countries have made tangible progress, more have passed legislation as if they are going to do something and others, the greatest contributors to the problem, have not done anything. They have stayed in place doing very little or have even reversed course.
The report entitled “The GLOBE Climate Legislation Study” (see link below) cites legislative efforts in 33 countries to support progress on climate change. Click on a specific country on the world map to see what they have done. While the report is positive about the collective steps being taken, critics point out the steps taken are not sufficient to prevent the world’s average temperature from rising by more than 3.6° Fahrenheit (2° Centigrade). This has been the target the U.N. and others have set as a formal goal for approximately two decades.
In addition, critics have observed that sometimes there is a difference between legislating promises and actually meeting them. They point to Canada’s recent withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol when it became clear they would not achieve their legislatively defined goals. As a counter argument, advocates point to the Climate Change Act adopted by the U.K. This is binding legislation representing an example of enlightened leadership from one of the world’s most developed countries.
The concern is we may be passing the tipping point and headed for an average temperature rise somewhere between 7.2° and 12.6° Fahrenheit (4° and 7° Celsius). The scientific community and the World Bank view this level as creating “cataclysmic changes” in climate that would have severe worldwide consequences.
In the press release about the World Bank’s recent report “Turn Down the Heat” (see the link below) Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank Group President, is quoted as saying “We need a global response equal to the scale of the climate problem, a response that puts us on a new path of climate smart development and shared prosperity. But time is very short.”
Adding support for the urgency of the task is a report on the coal power plants planned for the next few years (see link below). The world continues to add to the global climate change problem as it experiences growth of power demand and consumption. In addition, the April 26, 2013 issue of Nature magazine reports a recent study looking at reservoirs of fresh water internationally as documenting a startling shrinkage of fresh water. An example is that the water levels of great lakes Huron and Michigan have dropped to their lowest level since monitoring began in 1860.
Everywhere we look we see reinforcement of the reality of climate change. Governments at all levels are reluctant to change the status quo. No one, especially in the developed world, wants to be an outlier proposing significant changes before everyone else does. We are overwhelmed by the timidity of our elected officials and their fear of the political consequences they will face from the business community that wants no change. The way to accomplish our objectives is by electing enlightened and educated representatives who appeal to the best in us as opposed to those who elicit our darkest, most ignorant emotional responses.
Use the following links for more information:
http://researchmatters.noaa.gov/news/pages/carbondioxideatmaunaloareaches400ppm.aspx (ignore the log-in pop up screen)
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2008/27/contents (on the left margin select “Original Print pdf” to read the legislation)
http://www.wri.org/publication/global-coal-risk-assessment (select Downloads – Full Text)