“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced … to at most 350 ppm [parts per million].”
This is a quote from former NASA climatologist Dr. James Hanson.
Nicole Oliveira, Latin America Team Leader for 350.org, adds:
“Passing 400 ppm could have serious impacts for tropical biodiversity and food security in Brazil and Latin American countries. Together we are working to keep gas and oil in the ground.”
But there is disconcerting news out of the United Nations (UN):
“Globally averaged concentrations of CO2 reached 403.3 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, up from 400.00 ppm in 2015 because of a combination of human activities and a strong El Niño event.”
The UN warns the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased last year at record pace, reaching a level not seen on Earth since the Pliocene era three to five million years ago, according to the UN weather agency’s annual flagship report Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
Due to population growth, intensive agriculture, deforestation and industrialization, carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere now 100 times faster than at the end of the last ice age.
It has scientists worried.
El Niño weather events have intensified droughts and weakened vegetation’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide.
Unfortunately, as the earth warms, El Niño events are going to be more frequent, which means more devastating weather is in the forecast.
The 3.3 ppm increase over the past year is higher than both the the previous 12 months’ 2.3 ppm increase and the 2.08ppm average annual increase over the past decade.
It is also well above 1998 El Niño levels, when ppm levels rose to 2.7.
The UN study uses monitoring ships, aircraft, and stations on land to track emissions trends since 1750.
In a statement, World Meteorological Organization chief Petteri Taalas, said:
“Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement.”
Professor Dave Reay, professor of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, said:
“This should set alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power. We know that, as climate change intensifies, the ability of the land and oceans to mop up our carbon emissions will weaken. There’s still time to steer these emissions down and so keep some control, but if we wait too long humankind will become a passenger on a one-way street to dangerous climate change.”
Reacting to the new report, head of UN Environment Erik Solheim, said:
“The numbers don’t lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed. What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency.”
Piers Forster, director of the Priestley International Center for Climate at the University of Leeds, concurs:
“These large increase show it is more important than ever to reduce our emissions to zero – and as soon as possible. If vegetation can no longer help out absorbing our emissions in these hot years, we could be in trouble.”
The World Meteorological Organization predicts this year will surpass 2016’s carbon dioxide and methane emissions, albeit not as quickly because 2017 is not an El Niño year.
The time is now for nations to take more drastic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
A recent finding from researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego reports:
“The chance of ‘catastrophic’ climate change completely wiping out humanity by 2100 is now 1-in-20.”
In other words, there is a one in twenty chance humanity will be rendered extinct within the next century from “low-probability high-impact” events resulting from rising global temperatures.
A temperature increase greater than 3°C could lead, according to the study, to “catastrophic” devastating effects. More than a 5°C increase, though, could result in “unknown” apocalyptic consequences.
Societies all over the world are already witnessing increases in climate-change fueled conflicts, reversing gains countries have made in combating world hunger.
Image credit: phys.org