Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded 411 parts per million (ppm) in May, the highest monthly average ever recorded at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, home to the world’s longest continuous CO2 record. In addition, scientists found that the rate of CO2 increase is accelerating, from an average 1.6 ppm per year in the 1980s and 1.5 ppm per year in the 1990s to 2.2 ppm per year during the last decade….
On Tuesday, the Mauna Loa Observatory recorded its first-ever carbon dioxide reading in excess of 410 parts per million (it was 410.28 ppm in case you want the full deal). Carbon dioxide hasn’t reached that height in millions of years. It’s a new atmosphere that humanity will have to contend with, one that’s trapping more heat and causing the climate to change at a quickening rate….It stood at 315 ppm when record keeping began at Mauna Loa in 1958. In 2013, it passed 400 ppm. Just four years later, the 400 ppm mark is no longer a novelty. It’s the norm.
….Carbon dioxide concentrations have skyrocketed over the past two years due to in part to natural factors like El Niño causing more of it to end up in the atmosphere. But it’s mostly driven by the record amounts of carbon dioxide humans are creating by burning fossil fuels.
“The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease,” Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said. “But carbon dioxide will still be going up, albeit more slowly. Only when emissions are cut in half will atmospheric carbon dioxide level off initially.” Even when concentrations of carbon dioxide level off, the impacts of climate change will extend centuries into the future. The planet has already warmed 1.8°F (1°C), including a run of 627 months in a row of above-normal heat. Sea levels have risen about a foot and oceans have acidified. Extreme heat has become more common….Right now we’re on track to create a climate unseen in 50 million years by mid-century.
…our latest national survey, conducted shortly after the election, finds that, across party lines, 69% of registered voters say the U.S. should participate in the international agreement to limit global warming, compared to only 13% who say the U.S. should not.
Likewise, 70% of registered voters support setting strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public health, even if the cost of electricity to consumers and companies increased – a core component of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Democrats (85%), Independents (62%) and Republicans (52%) all support setting strict limits on these emissions.
Other key findings include:
As strategies, 78% of registered voters support taxing global warming pollution, regulating it, or using both approaches. Only 10% oppose these approaches…
…carbon — the element — is not the enemy. Climate change is the result of breakdowns in the carbon cycle caused by us: it is a design failure. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make airborne carbon a material in the wrong place, at the wrong dose and for the wrong duration. It is we who have made carbon toxic — like lead in our drinking water or nitrates in our rivers. In the right place, carbon is a resource and a tool.
Carbon dioxide is the currency of photosynthesis, a source of Earth’s capacity for regeneration. Soil carbon is the guarantor of healthy ecosystems and food and water security. Carbon atoms are the building blocks of life. Wool, cotton and silk are carbon compounds, as are many industrial polymers and pure ‘supercarbons’ such as diamonds and graphene.
…Rather than declare war on carbon emissions, we can work with carbon in all its forms. To enable a new relationship with carbon, I propose a new language — living, durable and fugitive — to define ways in which carbon can be used safely, productively and profitably. Aspirational and clear, it signals positive intentions, enjoining us to do more good rather than simply be less bad...
….(summarized by Marianna Grossman):
William McDonough, innovative architect and author, recently published in the journal Nature a new framework for managing carbon as an asset. Instead of considering carbon as something to eliminate, he recommends improving our designs by thinking about carbon in these ways:
Living carbon:organic, flowing in biological cycles, providing fresh food, healthy forests and fertile soil; something we want to cultivate and grow
Durable carbon: locked in stable solids such as coal and limestone or recyclable polymers that are used and reused; ranges from reusable fibers like paper and cloth, to building and infrastructure elements that can last for generations and then be reused
Fugitive carbon: has ended up somewhere unwanted and can be toxic; includes carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, ‘waste to energy’ plants, methane leaks, deforestation, much industrial agriculture and urban development
The goal is to eliminate fugitive carbon and to direct it to living or durable uses, thereby reducing fugitive carbon in the atmosphere and oceans using these strategies:
The new approach also identifies three strategies for carbon management and climate change:
Carbon positive: actions converting atmospheric carbon to forms that enhance soil nutrition or to durable forms such as polymers and solid aggregates; also recycling of carbon into nutrients from organic materials, food waste, compostable polymers and sewers
Carbon neutral:actions that transform or maintain carbon in durable Earth-bound forms and cycles across generations; or renewable energy such as solar, wind and hydropower that do not release carbon
Carbon negative: actions that pollute the land, water and atmosphere with various forms of carbon, for example, CO2 and methane into the atmosphere or plastics in the ocean
On average, a polar bear loses up to 30 percent of its total body mass while fasting during the open-water season. Although some scientists previously believed land-based foods could supplement the bears’ nutritional needs until the sea ice returns, a new study has revealed that access to terrestrial food is not sufficient to reduce the rate of body mass loss for fasting polar bears.
By Seth Borenstein and Alicia Chang, AP science writers LOS ANGELES — Sep 5, 2016, 3:06 PM ET
In the course of a 17-year experiment on more than 1 million plants, scientists put future global warming to a real world test — growing California flowers and grasslands with extra heat, carbon dioxide and nitrogen to mimic a not-so-distant, hotter future. The results, simulating a post-2050 world, aren’t pretty. And they contradict those who insist that because plants like carbon dioxide — the main heat-trapping gas spewed by the burning of fossil fuels — climate change isn’t so bad, and will result in a greener Earth. At least in the California ecosystem, the plants that received extra carbon dioxide, as well as those that got extra warmth, didn’t grow more or get greener. They also didn’t remove the pollution and store more of it in the soil, said study author Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Plant growth tended to decline with rising temperatures…..
….Only the extra nitrogen — a byproduct of diesel engines and ammonia used as fertilizer — made plants greener. Field, whose study appears Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, theorizes that there’s a limit to how much carbon dioxide plants can use. Outside scientists praised the long-running experiment.…”This study clearly demonstrates that as temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, grassland ecosystems will likely not be able to tolerate the higher temperatures and increased drought stress,” Boston University biologist Richard Primack emailed….
Nonlinear, interacting responses to climate limit grassland production under global change