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Earth Science

Earth's Carbon Dioxide Levels Reach Highest Point In 800,000 Years (washingtonpost.com) 433

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post: For the first time since humans have been monitoring, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have exceeded 410 parts per million averaged across an entire month (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), a threshold that pushes the planet ever closer to warming beyond levels that scientists and the international community have deemed "safe." The reading from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii finds that concentrations of the climate-warming gas averaged above 410 parts per million throughout April. The first time readings crossed 410 at all occurred on April 18, 2017, or just about a year ago. Carbon dioxide concentrations -- whose "greenhouse gas effect" traps heat and drives climate change -- were around 280 parts per million circa 1880, at the dawn of the industrial revolution. They're now 46 percent higher. According to Scripps Institute of Oceanography, this amount is the highest in at least the past 800,000 years. "We keep burning fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide keeps building up in the air," said Scripps scientist Ralph Keeling, who maintains the longest continuous record of atmospheric carbon dioxide on Earth. "It's essentially as simple as that."
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Earth's Carbon Dioxide Levels Reach Highest Point In 800,000 Years

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  • by AlanObject ( 3603453 ) on Sunday May 06, 2018 @09:58PM (#56564514)

    These Chinese hoaxers are going too far.

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Sunday May 06, 2018 @10:31PM (#56564616) Homepage

    This is bad news among good news. In general, CO2 output levels have been flat or going down in both the US and some other countries for a few years. 2018 is actually the first year in the last 4 where the total CO2 production of the US are going up, while they declined for the previous few years https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-natgas-eia-steo/update-1-u-s-carbon-emissions-seen-at-25-year-low-in-2017-idUSL1N1J311B [reuters.com]. But we need to do a lot more. So what can you do to help?

    There are three main aspects, personal, political and charitable:

    In terms of personal lifestyle differences, the biggest options are to eat less meat and to use a personal car less. If you live somewhere where public transit is an option, you can massively cut down on your carbon footprint by simply using public transit. Not everyone has that option, since you may live somewhere where public transit isn't available or may have a job or family that necessitates getting a car, in which case, if you get a new car, make sure to buy an electric or hybrid. Also in terms of personal activity, one can keep the air conditioning or heating in one's house at not as extreme temperatures or one can better insulate one's house. If one is somewhere installing solar on one's home either for electricity or just for water heating then do it. All these personal changes are also things which overall cause one to save money so there's good reason to do it..

    Political change is also important. Much of Europe is taking sensible approaches to these issues (although Germany's anti-nuclear kick isn't helping) but the US is very much not so. In general, the Democrats have a much better record on climate issues and other environmental issues than the current Republicans. This means voting for Democratic candidates and donating to them is important.

    In terms of charity, this is a really good way of effecting direct change. Two good options for solar are donating to Everybody Solar https://www.everybodysolar.org/ [everybodysolar.org] which gets solar panels for non-profits like museums and homeless shelters, and the Solar Electric Light Fund https://www.self.org/ [self.org] who helps get solar panels for locations in the developing world. SELF's work is especially important because it helps to cut off the potential of rising carbon dioxide in the developing world even as it helps increase their economies. For wind power, I recommend donating to The New England Wind Fund https://www.massenergy.org/the-wind-fund [massenergy.org]. Also, helping buy carbon offsets is important. The most efficient way of offsetting carbon in terms of tons offset per a dollar spent is Cool Earth https://www.coolearth.org/ [coolearth.org]. Every little bit helps.

    • by Tjp($)pjT ( 266360 ) on Sunday May 06, 2018 @11:50PM (#56564828)
      Rather than single issue vote in liberals vote with your pocketbook. If you buy things that are effectively lower or lowering in CO2 then companies will move that direction. Money votes are so much more powerful than political votes. The American process of government controlling technology has a poor record. In 1968 several cars when properly tuned met air pollution standards for the 1980 goals, without catalytic converters. But they had to start using converters by government mandate. The 1970s EPA wanted to, because it was technically possible, make room air conditioners twice as efficient, and the energy use label original spec called for a minimum 8x10 metalizied label with a mil spec permanent adhesive. Small window air conditioners couldn’t support that size label. And to make air conditioners twice as efficient while running would make them use so much more material that the refining and processing and fabrication energy costs for the additional material would never be made up in the units lifetime of running.

      So, putting the government in charge of specifications for technology, not so good. Grassroots make it in demand for “greener” tech, a good deal. The reason solar costs less is that some folks put in the money and created the demand early on. It’s only recently it has become really popular.

      California has taken the step of requiring solar on most new construction, hopefully they left open the problem homes, like deep valley homes, or homes that wind or low head hydro might be better. And hopefully they require where reasonable grid tie ins. But to mandate it in the first place is a mistake. They could just incentivize it and it would happen.
    • In before some troll comes along to say America is all clean and green. A quote from the above link.

      In 2018, however, carbon dioxide emissions from transportation, power plants, homes and businesses should climb about 2.2 percent, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said. That increase would be due to forecasts for a colder winter, higher economic growth and rising gas prices, the EIA said.

    • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Monday May 07, 2018 @02:21AM (#56565146) Journal

      although Germany's anti-nuclear kick isn't helping Why?
      Germanies percentage of nuclear power was around 22%, now it is around 10%.
      Germany used to have something like 5% renewables, 30 years ago, now it is close to 40%, this year likely above 40%.

      You don't need nukes to produce CO2 free energy ...

      • by mbkennel ( 97636 ) on Monday May 07, 2018 @02:39AM (#56565184)
        I'd wish it were a joke but it is not.

        That's the effect of denuclearization: more coal. If they're using more coal, they are doing it wrong. It's foolish to compete nuclear vs renewables until the last coal plant and mine is eliminated permanently.
        • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Monday May 07, 2018 @05:56AM (#56565560)
          Actually, the coal consumption in Germany is pretty leveled by now. The real bad thing is that it didn't significantly decrease yet (which would had been possible had the nukes been kept operating for as long as possible).
          • Actually, the coal consumption in Germany is pretty leveled by now.

            No it's not. It's dropped 4% y/y since 2013, after a slightly 2.8% uptick caused by the sudden shutdown and safety assessments of their nuclear reactors in 2012.

            To say Germany's coal consumption is leveled is completely understating their efforts given the dramatic cut in baseload from their nuclear reduction.

        • That's the effect of denuclearization: more coal.

          And where is that basis? Fukushima was in 2011, late 2011 Germany announced the denuclearisation. In 2012 they actually started the process. Here's the yearly coal consumption numbers for Germany starting 2012 in millions of tonnes oil equivalent:
          2012: 80.5
          2013: 82.8
          2014: 79.6
          2015: 78.5
          2016: 75.3

          So what has denuclearisation done again? Germany's coal consumption is at its lowest level since the end of its major industrialisation.

      • You don't need nukes to produce CO2 free energy ...

        True, but Germany have also upped the amount of coal unfortunately. Renweables are great and all, but Germany isn't physically large enough nor has the sophisticated grid and storage infrastructure to deal with the rather variable nature of them.

        Which is a shame.

        I think technically, the wholesale switch to electric cars and genuine smart grids and smart meters will be the key, becuase that's the most likely way to actually scale things up. By genuine smart

        • by Uecker ( 1842596 )

          Coal use is a historical low in Germany (electricity production from coal 2017: 92.6 TWh lignite 2017: 147.5 TWh, vs. ten years ago: coal 2007: 142.0 TWh, lignite 2007: 155.1 WTh, source https://www.ag-energiebilanzen... [ag-energiebilanzen.de]).

          Also the grid is pretty advanced and stable in the world while 33% of electricity is already produced by renewables and there is no indication of severe problems (certainly there are challenges, but no challenges which seem too hard to solve).

    • by HalfFlat ( 121672 ) on Monday May 07, 2018 @02:35AM (#56565178)

      Steady or declining CO2 emissions is only good news if we're in a steady state situation.

      We're not.

      Simply keeping anthropogenic CO2 and CH4 emissions steady is woefully insufficient. The "well below 2 degrees warming" goal of the Paris agreements is itself based on an assumption that we will be able to actively remove [economist.com] CO2 from the atmosphere, requiring a technology we have yet to make feasible at scale.

      We cannot afford to burn our currently known reserves of fossil fuels. We have to decarbonise our energy production as quickly as is humanly possible. That countries such as Australia are still granting fossil fuel exploration permits is, frankly, insane.

    • The only useful advice is to eat less meat. In most developed countries, mostly in Europe (when trucks carrying only 1 person are not a hit, like in USA), cars are no more the main CO2 emitters, but the cities itself (factories, all garbage produced in homes, etc). The advice to get a new car is the worst one: to produce a new car the use of natural resources (like water) and the CO2 production is a way higher then keep a less-than-10-years car for more years (as they were already produced using more tight
      • Um, I explicitly didn't advise people to get new cars. I said "If you get a new car" and then discussed how one should do that if one is going to. I'm also not sure how you think advising people to use more public transit isn't productive, or what your objection is to getting solar panels or donating to causes which buy more solar panels.
  • Uhh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by easyTree ( 1042254 ) on Monday May 07, 2018 @03:58AM (#56565334)

    Maybe someone should stop cutting down the Amazon rainforest?

    It's just a suggestion; feel free to put profit above everything else.

  • So What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Monday May 07, 2018 @10:14AM (#56566416) Homepage
    If the general population in the United States actually cared and felt this was an important issue - then the Senate, House and Oval office wouldn't be run by people who adamantly scream this is a liberal hoax.
    They are busy appointing judges who will rule in favor of the corporate oligarchy doing exactly what we're seeing: disincentivizing renewable energy, disemboweling clean air/water laws, doling out tax breaks to polluters, attacking scientific processes and thought, defunding education to eliminate critical thinking skills... and they are winning. Only 1/2 of Americans believe global warming is real. http://news.gallup.com/poll/20... [gallup.com]
    And other BS/disproven ideas are on rise - like Immunizations cause autism and the growth of flat earthers... Till we value and fund education and critical thinking, we're lost.

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