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Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Levels Just Passed The 410 PPM Mark

Just 4 years after atmospheric carbon dioxide levels passed the 400 parts per million mark, levels have now surged past the 410 parts per million (ppm) mark — serving as a good example of the great speed at which atmospheric levels are now increasing.

Just 4 years after atmospheric carbon dioxide levels passed the 400 parts per million mark, levels have now surged past the 410 parts per million (ppm) mark — serving as a good example of the great speed at which atmospheric levels are now increasing.

To be clear, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on the Earth haven’t been that high in many million of years, since back when the planet had a very different climate than it does now.

What this means is that, when the lag time required for high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to have their full climate forcing is factored in, we are now very likely headed towards: a world without polar ice caps, with much higher sea levels, with much higher average temperatures, with greatly changed weather and oceanic circulation patterns, and with a greatly reduced capacity for high-intensity agriculture.

While the passing of the 410 ppm mark doesn’t seem to mean much on its own, it does more or less show that the world is still on track for “worst case” scenarios as regards anthropogenic climate change.

“Its pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled,” Gavin Foster, a paleoclimate researcher at the University of Southampton commented to Climate Central recently. “These milestones are just numbers, but they give us an opportunity to pause and take stock and act as useful yard sticks for comparisons to the geological record.”

“The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease,” commented Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “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.”

I’ll note here that I’m a bit skeptical of that claim — much depends on the positive feedback loops that kick in by the time emissions decrease (which I don’t think will ever happen willingly, but rather as a result of population reduction via war, agricultural failure, water scarcity, increasing drug/antibiotic resistance amongst microbes, etc.).

The feedback loops that I’m talking about — permafrost melting, increasing aridity and rates of wildfires, widespread desertification, methane clathrate release, reduced Arctic and Antarctic albedo as the result of disappearing ice, etc. — already seem to be kicking in at this point, to some degree or another.

With that in mind, it’s been interesting to observe the degree of sheer denial going on collectively/culturally. Not that that’s anything new — a look back at earlier civilizations show something similar. The pull of collective narratives seem to hold most people in a state of inaction even as the walls literally come down on them. People generally stick with the stories they know until the day they die.

 
 
 
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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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