400 ppm carbon dioxide? In my atmosphere?

It's true, at least for today. Although the real concern in climate science is average concentrations of carbon dioxide over much longer periods of time, surpassing the 400 ppm mark, even for a day, is a historic milestone. 400 ppm was once a level we talked about avoiding altogether through mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Now, it's a reminder that we're not really doing anything to circumvent the steady increase in global carbon dioxide concentrations and global average temperature. Happy Friday!


  1. Well the Solution is easy, take down those pesky monitoring stations. (unfortunately in this day and age someone has probably thought of this and thinks it is a good idea and started on it)

  2. ….it’s a reminder that we’re not really doing anything to circumvent the steady increase in global carbon dioxide concentrations….

    I think this gets to the heart of it. There is simply no collective will to that would place preservation of the future environment ahead of material wealth and pleasure now. We are green only when it suits us. We sacrifice nothing for the greater good.

    The elephant in the room of continuing population growth is often ignored. When people say that they care about the environment “for their childrens’ sake” the irony just about kills me.

    1. Population growth is actually on track to level out. It’s a consumption problem, not really a population problem. A childless family in the US produces WAY more carbon dioxide emissions than a family 8 in Ethiopia. 

      I don’t mean to snip, but this is kind of a pet peeve of mine. I’ve found that a concern about over-population tends to go along with shifting the blame to “all those people who won’t stop breeding” and off of oneself (who usually a major consumer of resources and producer of carbon dioxide emissions). It’s not a terribly useful way to frame the problem. 

        1. I guess it depends on the additional population gets their clothing, food and heating from sources fueled by fossil fuel or not.

          1. I honestly don’t see people switching from fossil fuels anytime in my lifetime or many generations to come.  Especially since we seem to keep able squeezing fossil fuels out of more places like shale and tar sands, consequences be damned.

        2. No, I’d recommend placing the emphasis where it belongs … on resource consumption and lifestyle creep in rich countries. That doesn’t mean we ignore population. But, frankly, by doing things like educating women we’re already solving that problem. And the fact that we already have leveling rates of population growth will not solve climate change. Because it’s a consumption problem, not a problem with the number of people, per se. 

          1. Consumption = people times consumption-per-person.

            It seems to me like you’re arguing about which of the 10s is responsible for 10 x 10 being 100.

          2. I don’t think the argument is that even. More  like 4 x 25, with consumption being the higher of the two.

      1. The thing is, that population growth is only harmless as long as the family of 8 continues to live in conditions that I would see as unacceptable for anyone. As soon as you don’t see the political stability, economic development and a better lifestyle that I would want this family to experience, the family isn’t really damaging the environment much. Obviously this is in the context of the fact that we in the developed world are the the real elephant.

        1. True, but once “the family of 8” starts to experience higher prosperity, and thus the expectation that all of their children will survive to adulthood, the birthrate drops dramatically.

      2.  Agreed.  The worst offenders with the carbon footprint have wrapped up out population booms. The countries with population expansions aren’t the ones releasing all the carbon.

      3. I think it is actually possible for us to maintain a first world lifestyle, though it would take some sacrifices, for a while. If we put aside the amount of money we’ve spent since the turn of the century on wars and bailing out banks to make a massive national project to do it, we could be getting most of our power from solar energy in 25-30 years.  If we’d started 15 years ago, that figure would be 15-20 years form the present.  We are really the only ones in a position to do this in a way that makes a real difference.

      4. Good for you, Maggie. You are spot on! And your example is perfect.

        This is a problem we COULD work toward resolving, if we really focused on breaking our addiction to hyperconsumption.

    2. Humans suck at consider future effects of current action (or inaction).

      If we poke something and it falls over a second later, we quickly link cause and effect. If we poke something and it falls over a decade later however…

  3. 400 ppm? Well, I think we’ve finally found something that will get the attention of the fossil fuel companies. They’ll be forced to take drastic measures in the face this.

    I’m going to guess a soft-focus TV commercial showing a toddler ambling through a field of daisies. “Carbon Dioxide. It’s plant food. Stay out of our way, or the kid is plant food too!”

  4. Burn the empire down!  Wait… what?  That would just release more CO2?  Shit.

  5. Remember something, I read as a child. Plants grow less at 320 ppm, And that plant greenhouses raise their levels to the 450 ppm,  and keep the level in the seedingling areas even higher if possible.
    And the bit about population control, who would decide on the optimum population size? Then ask yourself, how do you decide who dies? Do you ask someone else to give up their future? Could they have been the next savior of the world, or the next Matisse? Or just because they were not born of the blood, they die?

    1. Remember something, I read as a child. Plants grow less at 320 ppm, And that plant greenhouses raise their levels to the 450 ppm,  and keep the level in the seedingling areas even higher if possible.

      That works well in a greenhouse, because you make sure there’s lots of fertilizer and no competition. In nature it’s not so simple. There isn’t always minerals to make extra growth possible, and when there is, some plants do much better exploiting the new resource and climate than others and so can displace them.

      That poison ivy turns out to do well is not actually reassuring news. There’s a neat irony in our carbon dioxide levels approaching what you see in actual greenhouses, though.

  6. This is all part of the oil companies’ master plan.

    Debate the science until the effects are irreversible.

    Then debate what to do about the effects.

    All the while, trillions of dollars are made by extracting oil and coal.

    1. If there were trillions of (non-taxpayer) dollars to be made in supplying solar, wind and water power, we would not be worrying about the CO2 level, would we???

      1. The problem here is the externalities.   Even ignoring massive government subsidies for petroleum products, if you factored in the cost of removing the CO2 from the atmosphere, or, say, made oil companies pay into a fund to relocate people who are going to be displaced by climate change, you would find that it’s not any cheaper than solar anymore. 

        1. If you could get the oil companies to pay for those externalities, rather than their customers (most of whom vote), this would be a straightforward and probably a popular solution.

    1. Not a solution – merely a delay.

      If you want a solution along those lines it would go something like:
      Dig a deep hole.
      Find a forest.
      Chop that forest down.
      Dump the wood in the hole.
      Pour concrete on top.
      Replant the forest.

      The reason is that a plant during it’s entire life(stretching a bit here since I have to include the decomposting process afterwards) absorbs a net of 0 carbon.

Comments are closed.