Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Planet nears a worrisome milestone: 400 ppm

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will reach a concentration of historic proportions.

Planet nears a worrisome milestone: 400 ppm

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"Near the moonscape summit of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, an infrared analyser will soon make history," reports Richard Monastersky in the international science journal, Nature.

"Sometime in the next month, it is expected to record a daily concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of more than 400 parts per million (p.p.m.), a value not reached at this key surveillance point for a few million years."

It's not as if anything earthshaking will happen. But it's nevertheless considered a point at which climate change will more or less have its own momentum.

"It will be a while, perhaps a few years, before the global CO2 concentration averaged over an entire year, passes 400 p.p.m.. But topping that value at Mauna Loa is significant because researchers have been monitoring the gas there since 1958, longer than any other spot," Monastersky writes in a fascinating article.

At Mauna Loa, we're close enough that the Scripps Institution of Oceanography has begun releasing daily readings here.

And here's where you can find a wealth of information about the Scripps CO2 program.

"I wish it weren't true, but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400-ppm level without losing a beat. At this pace we'll hit 450-ppm within a few decades." Scripps geochemist Ralph Keeling said in a statement.

Bryan Walsh has a good story about it all in Time, too.

Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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