400 ppm CO2 and now what?

A major and tragic milestone has been crossed two weeks ago (9th May 2013).  Measurements of atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide passed the 400 parts per million (ppm) daily average mark, the highest in millions of years. 

Climate change critics can first read this linked article, if you find yourself saying so what?

We have loaded the "climate dice" in favor of more weather anomalies and extreme heat waves.

 Readings are taken at the NOAA-operated Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii and form part of the Keeling Curve - a continuous record of CO2 measurements dating back to 1958. Bubbles found inside Antarctic ice core samples provide a longer record of CO2 in the air for the past 800,000 years. LiveScience explains that the cycle reveals how trees and vegetation remove more CO2 from the air during the summer, until the annual minimum is reached in October.

Scientific American repports that it may be next year before the monthly average level reaches 400 ppm, and yet longer still until the annual average reaches that number. But there is no question that the world continues to inexorably climb toward higher levels of greenhouse gas concentrations. Barring economic recessions, the world may be lucky to stop at 450, 500 or even beyond. Last year, humanity spewed some 36 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, up from 35 billion the year before.

Globally, glaciers and ice sheets are melting at an astounding rate, a phenomenon largely attributed to climate change. In the medium to long term this will have an enormous impact on coastal cities, island nations and water supplies for growing urban populations in many developing countries. The recent documentary Chasing Ice, by photographer James Balog, showcased the shocking retreat of glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, Nepal, Alaska and the United States’ Rocky Mountains. Balog founded the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) in 2007 to produce a permanent record of the planet’s changing ecosystems.


In addition to the dangers associated with extremes, fossil fuel-based electricity production can be adversely affected by air and water temperatures. This simply means that thermal and nuclear plants will see reduced efficiencies in hotter temperatures, while the necessary cooling processes for these plant types will be constrained by regulations on river levels and maximum allowable temperature for return water. Lower efficiency of plants can also mean higher energy intensities and more greenhouse gas pollution. The supply of renewable energy sources is also vulnerable to an increase in extreme

weather events. Hydropower will be adversely affected by increased variability of rainfall and increased evaporation. Change in wind patterns or insolation – exposure to the sun’s rays – will affect the variability and increase the intermittency of wind and solar-based electricity generation. The energy sector will experience both increased demand and diminished supply in extreme weather and climate events.

Below are some of the foreseen impacts of global warming.

A focus on the systemic barriers to climate solutions and changing political dynamics is a starting point towards a low-carbon trajectory until and beyond 2030. In the absence of a global agreement on climate change mitigation, emission-intensive infrastructure continues to be built, locking in greenhouse gases for decades to come. As countries are preparing once again to come together in Warsaw, Poland, at the end of this year, all eyes are looking to see what the future climate regime can deliver; whether it will generate the urgency and political resolve to prevent runaway climate change

Recreated from original blog post authored by Nilesh Y. Jadhav at Solarika.org

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