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Graph of carbon dioxide concentration at Mauna Loa Observatory for the month ending May 3, 2014
Almost exactly a year ago, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide passed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human history. In fact, the global atmosphere hadn't seen such a concentration of the greenhouse gas in 3 million years. It was a watershed moment, and a screaming alarm, yet the White House Press Corps ignored it. As Pulitzer Prize-winning website InsideClimate News reported:
"This is another global emissions target that we've blown past without doing anything," said Jim Butler, director of global monitoring at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory. "Stronger storms, droughts, rising seas. We are already seeing the impacts of increased CO2 in the atmosphere ... How much further can we really go?"
We now know:
The end of April has arrived, and with it, the record for the first month in human history with an average carbon dioxide level in Earth’s atmosphere above 400 parts per million has been set.

With a little more than 24 hours left in the month, the average for April can't slip below 400 ppm. “Every day in April has been over 400 ppm,” said Pieter Tans, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The updated monthly record is charted at the top of this post.
The first measurement in excess of 400 ppm was made on May 9, 2013. This year, the level rose above that mark a full two months earlier, and has remained above 400 ppm steadily since the beginning of April. While the milestone is largely a symbolic one, it does illustrate how far emissions have risen from their preindustrial levels of 280 ppm.
To see graphs of atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1960, and since 1700, check the Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Keeling Curve website. And keep in mind that the target level for climate change mitigation is 350 ppm.

A year ago, we blew through 400 ppm for the first time in human history. Now we've seen our first month that averaged that level. What's next? We're drilling, mining, fracking, deforesting and even eating our way toward finding out. It won't be pretty.

Originally posted to Laurence Lewis on Mon May 05, 2014 at 06:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Doing something about this is made harder... (101+ / 0-)

    ...when only 24% of Americans (10% of Republicans and 36% of Democrats) worry about climate change "a great deal" and 51 worry "a little/not at all" is difficult, to say the least. The disinformation machinery of the Kochs, et al., and the laziness of so much of media have helped to generate this myopic public attitude.

    The White House should be behaving like Sheldon Whitehouse, who has, from the floor of the Senate since October 2011, been speaking on climate change regularly (once a week when the Senate is in session since April 2012).

    But the speeches are delivered to a mostly empty chamber.

    He's been slowly joined by others, including Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment Committee, and the 26 other Democratic and independent senators who pulled an all-nighter on climate change in March.

    A minority of Senate Democrats are members of the Climate Action Task Force just as an even smaller minority are members of the Safe Climate Caucus in the House.

    They all, even and every elected congressional Democrat, ought to be signed up for one of these groups and fighting the disinformation constantly.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Mon May 05, 2014 at 02:25:00 AM PDT

    •  Obama may finally be waking up (18+ / 0-)

      There's a good article in the Washington post that seems to say the President has woken up about the disaster we face.

      OTOH it looks like Reid will allow a Senate vote on KXL.  If he does it right and allows a straight up or down vote, it won't get the 60.  If they tie it to other legislation, who knows.

    •  A list of the 38 members of the (23+ / 0-)

      Safe Climate Caucus can be found here; the original 18 members of the Climate Action Task Force were listed in this diary, and a hasty search turned up no indication that the membership has changed since.

    •  A list of the 38 members of the (7+ / 0-)

      Safe Climate Caucus can be found here; the original 18 members of the Climate Action Task Force were listed in this diary, and a hasty search turned up no evidence that the membership has changed.

    •  You Can Turn This Around Faster Than You Did (6+ / 0-)

      for voting rights?

      You were mobilizing for voting rights half a century ago, and yet still today progressive legislation at the national level is mostly impossible because of fraudulent control of the House.

      That's not at all a promising indication of what we can expect from climate change activism, compared to what science says needs to be done, how much and how fast.

      There's just no time to solve this with people.

      Not using models of activism we've used for the past 2 centuries here.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon May 05, 2014 at 07:08:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Who will solve the problem? (0+ / 0-)

      The US government can't solve it, and neither can the American people.

      We can, however, clean up after ourselves.

      The trick is wanting to do it.

      Here's where Tesla provides a clue:

      Make a kick-ass product, and people will want it.

      I can't help but think of (OK - get out the knives) Duck Dynasty, and people riding ATVs into the woods to go hunting.  Seems like the last thing in the world a hunter needs is a noisy motor scaring off whatever he's gunning (or fishing) for.
      It's just one silly example (like Sodastream and all the car trips and aluminum cans/plastic bottles that don't get made).

      I find it impossible to believe that getting sustainable cannot be a winning proposition up and down left and right in society.

      It just feels sometimes like we're not trying very hard.

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Wed May 07, 2014 at 06:50:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nothing can be done in the short term (0+ / 0-)

      Or, even in the relatively long term.

      What do you propose? Specifically?

      And please lay out what scientists think can result from these proposals.

      MB - I think we are in agreement that we are spewing too much GHG into the atmosphere.

      We have been for decades.

      But.. many climate scientists believe unless we can cut 70% of our global output immediately, we cannot reduce the effects of AGW.   And, actually, that level of reduction may only stabilize us.

      I, personally, don't have that much confidence in their models.  But let's say they are correct.

      Unless we can convince China and other emerging nations to drastically (and I am talking about economic disaster drastically)  cut their emissions, we're basically screwed.

      What proposals are viable?  Minor cutbacks by the USA seem quite pitiful.

      Personally, I think if climate scientists are correct, we are screwed.  We should have gone nuclear power a long time ago.

    •  Particulate treaties are the way (0+ / 0-)

      My son, who works in protein research, notes that the quantities they work with are ridiculously tiny. You can't usually see 5 nanograms of material, but just the quantification seems to make it real enough that nobody ever questions that the material is there. It is the invisibility of CO2 that makes it such a challenge to regulate. On the other hand, most CO2 pollution, and other greenhouse gases, even the formation of water vapor, is associated with particulates. An on particulates there has been much greater success at the lay and expert level in reaching agreement. The treaty that comest to mind is the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution to which the US, Canada and most of Europe are signatories. Protocols have allow the addition of volatile organic compounds, sulfur compounds, heavy metals, and themes such as ocean acidification.

      The average Chinese and local official has no problem admitting China's serious air quality issues, and most Chinese would take the five extra years of life and lower cancer rates in exchange for cleaner air. Most of the northern hemisphere would also like to see China make some progress as their bad air quality changes precipitation patterns  and screws up seawater chemistry around the world. Kyoto has gone nowhere and is based a historically odd baseline choice. For example, Russia gets to use a number from just around the collapse of the Soviet Union when industry was dead in the water.

      Global adoption of the Convention or something similar, with enforcement mechanisms, would go far in promoting the phaseout of coal everywhere, and address issues like mercury and carbon deposition, in one swoop. Moreover, the notion of breathing particles or dust is generally objectionable to most people and something most would agree should not be something they must involuntarily endure.  

  •  I am inclined (7+ / 0-)

    to attend the protest on Keystone XL with a black umbrella in hand.

    I strongly suspect that Obama feels he has done enough to ensure peace in our time sort of like this guy

  •  Watched Years of Living Dangerously last night. (11+ / 0-)

    Fascinating story on trying to drag the Evangelical movement into recognizing that carbon is impacting the climate and that it should be treated as a moral issue and not a political issue, A conversation has started but no progress was made that I could see from that piece. The President is still black after all and that matter most to them.

    "If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."- Lao-Tzu

    by Pakalolo on Mon May 05, 2014 at 06:35:30 AM PDT

  •  Our Private Sector Federal Government in KS (7+ / 0-)

    is also fighting in numerous states to reduce clean energy production via green energy taxes.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon May 05, 2014 at 06:58:45 AM PDT

    •  We don't have time . (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      laurak, bygorry, maryabein, elwior

      What we are already committed to, what we can't change with mediation, will take 100 East Coast cities with populations over 100,000, most of the largest and most prosperous cities world wide in fact.

      To turn that around will require not only convincing energy companies to leave trillions of dollars worth of profits in the ground but also require all of us to agree to invest the equivalent of our annual GNP world wide or the next 85 years in mediation.

      My analogy would be taking your wife out for dinner and a movie to celebrate your anniversary, getting mugged in an alley as you leave the restaurant, having someone stick a gun in your face and say give me all your valuables and after handing over your wallet drawing the line at your wedding ring with the consequence you both get shot.

      When it comes to climate change we are about to get mugged like that and we are going to have to give away our civilization, everything we value, everything we think makes us human, the quality of life we have become accustomed to complaining about; and then still have to watch most of us, our mothers and fathers, wives, husbands, children and grandchildren, die horribly, maybe watch all of us die horribly.

      That's why we no longer have time for Republicans, Faux news, politics as usual. That's why we don't have time.

      Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

      by rktect on Mon May 05, 2014 at 07:40:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The target level isn't 350 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, rktect, Just Bob

    Jim Hansen and a few outliers support a 350 target level.

    Most scientists say 400 which we have just passed or 450 which it will be impossible for us not to pass.

  •  Cosmos got into this somewhat last night (11+ / 0-)

    Talked about the great extinctions in the past when climate conditions changed drastically due to tilts in the earth axis, sun activity, meteors, massive global volcanic eruptions, etc.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson had one line in there that went something like "the dinosaurs couldn't see the meteor coming. What will be our excuse?"

    Some politicians need a backbone to keep shouting this from the mountaintops. We need a global Marshall plan to get us off fossil fuels and on to renewable, clean energy sources along with conservation.

    Future generations, assuming there will be many more, are going to curse the generations of the last 100-200 years. Especially when they find out for the last 30 or 40 years the evidence is there of what we have been doing to this planet and the consequences...and yet we took no real action...and in fact many powerful forces willfully refused to accept the evidence and take action.

    I predict in the future people will be so mad that you won't find anything in this country named after Saint Ronny of Reagan and his "let the free market set our energy policy" minions.

    Blue is blue and must be that but yellow is none the worse for it - Carlisle Wheeling

    by kenwards on Mon May 05, 2014 at 07:30:01 AM PDT

    •  What makes you think there will be a future (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      laurak, maregug, soarbird, Just Bob, elwior

      Climate Change is here and now. The period of time it takes for things to get worse has become so short that ordinary humans and not just the expert scientists carefully studying it can see what's happening.

      By 2035 "future generations" will have begun to lose their coastal cities to sea level rise.

      By 2050 we will have doubled our present warming which has already exceeded the limits we have set for avoiding catastrophic consequences.

      By 2100 temperatures will be 6 -7 degrees C above the present day. The tropics will be uninhabitable and the population which by then may have reached fifty billion world wide will have started dying off by the billions every year.

      It doesn't stop there. It just keeps getting worse. The polar ice caps melt and sea level rise reaches 60 m.

      The Oceans and rainforests will die, are dying now. Everything that walks or crawls, swims, flies, or reproduces itself will die. There will be no organisms left to create oxygen or to eat as food.

      Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

      by rktect on Mon May 05, 2014 at 07:53:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  pretty much sums it up (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Frank In WA, kenwards, elwior

        It's important for people to grasp the significance of actual ecological collapse.  And yet, most won't change a thing- 2100 is a long ways off for anyone alive now.  We care only about ourselves, and not our children.  The proof is in our actions (or lack thereof.)

      •  Yeah, but... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kenwards, elwior

        people don't want to hear this!  Hey, what'd you think about the new Spiderman movie?

      •  Population won't be anywhere close to 50 billion (6+ / 0-)

        Because the dieback will start by 2050.

        The last thing people will think is a problem is OVERpopulation on the global scare. It's going to be a fast, ugly, terrifying fall and it starts real soon because very ugly wars will presage the ecological collapse by at least two generations.

        Human beings are impatient; they're not about to wait for climate collapse to kill people whose existence (and possession of Stuff They Want) offends them.

        •  So anyone working that optimistic Yes We Can tip (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kenwards, rktect, elwior

          and tries to save the world will have to accept that quite a few people will be shooting at them for trying.

          Lots of folks have been preparing for an Age of Road Warrior Rage. They're not about to let their time be derailed by planet-savers.

          "Civilization saved? Eff that!" They'll say.

          •  The World will do just fine without us around (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            In a few millenia natural processes will reinvent bacteria and another great die off cycle will begin.

            As for the Road Warrior, survivalist, prepared for anything with more guns than you types, ok that gets a little scary.

            It might take another few years for the last of the cannibal cults to exhaust its resources. Then what?

            Are there still some scientific types floating around the poles in Nuclear subs depending on recycled wastes and chemical soups for sustenance?

            They probably won't be too concerned with saving civilization, just keeping the oxygen generators working will fill their time, and avoiding places where nuclear power stations have sunk beneath the seas, malfunctioned and exploded.

            Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

            by rktect on Mon May 05, 2014 at 03:18:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't happen to think that any ethics system (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              that celebrates human extinction is worthy of admiration.

              Also, I happen to think the level of damage done by us is so vast that our being among the first not the last casualties of the Holocene Holocaust will not stop it from taking place.

              Suggesting, even blithely, that the world would be better off with Humanity is at best a ship that's sailed (because, post priori, we're already here) and at worst a call for nihilism and just letting the worst come what may.

              In the middle is the wishy-washy clinging to absurd notions that the coming ecological collapse and its impact on humans is like karma and that somehow most of Humanity had it coming.

              When most of humanity is under the age of 15 and almost certainly didn't do a damn thing to deserve this disaster.

              Ok, rantlet done. So.. nice vignettes. :)

              •  key edit: WITHOUT humanity (line five) (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
              •  We don't have to celebrate human extinction (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                George Carlin  pointed out that its not about saving the planet. If we continue with tar sands development, Appalachian mountain leveling, BP oil spills and other planetary rapes and disasters, the planet will survive just fine, but we won't.

                We should recognize that having globally known it was coming for a century and wasted every opportunity to take it seriously as a threat politically and in the media, and economically we indeed have it coming.

                We don't have to celebrate that but we should recognize its coming and its close now.

                Its annoying to observe that some people still have their fingers in their ears.

                Its also annoying that others are proposing alternative energy, recycling, LEED architecture, riding bicycles to work are sufficient to offset the carbon burning the Koch brothers bottom line corporate profits are committed to.

                We might refuse to go out without making some effort to save ourselves that goes to the core of the issue.

                We could wage war against this fate, accept that what's killing us is the comfort of our existing quality of life, but we don't want to go live lives that are short, brutish and nasty unless everybody else is willing to do that also, and consequently that won't happen until we let things get so bad there is no other option.

                We could quit our jobs, stop commuting to work, stop buying fast food hamburgers that we clear rainforests to make the grazing land for. Most of us would not.

                We could stop buying products with palm oil realizing  that there is palm oil in virtually all the packaged items on our "grossary" store shelves and rain forrests in Madagascar are being cleared to plant palm oil trees.

                Most of us would not do that either.

                We could recognize that even if we become aware and we stop buying things in stores and go live off the grid it does us no good to do that unless we take another 700 billion people with us, and the gyres of plastic that fill our oceans and gradually are killing off all the things that live in them.

                Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

                by rktect on Mon May 05, 2014 at 11:17:31 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I do a lot of thinking about this too (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Ultimately, I think the future - even the grim future- will have its bright spots.

                  I think our civilization is dying and with it much of the biosphere but something, someone will survive.

                  At the end of the day there is no one world, one Humanity - and ironically that might bail out the species, just not most of it.

                  And probably not the part of it that currently runs the show or cleaves to its dominance.

                  As for wars to stop ecological damage those might be coming, right after preemptive war to keep the greens from rising at all. (I think you said that too.)

        •  It could start by then (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          2050 temperature hits 2 degrees C. Cities and civilization begin to fail. Jobs, stores, distribution networks, brown out and then black out so that people are forced to abandon cities. Cheap fossil fuel energy is no longer cheap or available. Alternative energy is being resisted by traditional power sources.

          Drought, famine, opportunistic diseases and pestilence, possible bacterial immunity to antibiotics, global epidemics, water shortages force people to drink from less than optimum water supplies, disease reaches the pandemic level.

          With oceans dying, lifeforms that make oxygen cease to exist. With rainforest habitats dying, tropics no longer support human life.

          Resource wars using chemical and bacteriological if not nuclear weapons, foreshadow climate change itself coming to be regarded as a weapon of mass destruction as people from the tropics, Africa, Asia, South Ameica, Ocean Asia can't escape their geo-status.

          Human deaths approach the level of the holocaust or the influensa epidemic or the Black Plague. Wildlife just begins going extinct. Domesticated sources of food follow close behind.

          Urban Soylent Green programs run out of Soy and energy for the crowd control scoops and processing factories. Terrorists abandon their causes and its every frightened little boy and girl for themselves.

          Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

          by rktect on Mon May 05, 2014 at 03:09:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  What's sad is you don't even come close (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elwior, rktect

            to the death toll. It will be in the billions, several times.

            And then the 22nd century begins.

            •  I'm talking by 2050, not that far off (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Ultimately our population will crash and millions of deaths will become billions. At that point what billions of us have already done, have been gradually working up since the last ice age with civilization and cheap fossil fuel energy and an industrial revolution will become more than whatever survivors there are can cope with.

              I don't think its possible to make the transition from creating the mess to cleaning up the mess once the cities begin to die and that starts in 2035.

              In another 15 years after that everything that hasn't already begun to fail fails, and civilization as we know it no longer can cope with the scope of the disaster.

              In the fifty years following that, thru 2100 I think its going to be very difficult for any organized group anywhere to carry on and its a shame but not hard to picture.

              Its very like a plane crash from thirty thousand feet, you have some moments to realize what's happening, but there isn't a lot you can do about it. Redesigning the plane in your head so it wouldn't have crashed doesn't help much.

              Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

              by rktect on Mon May 05, 2014 at 11:30:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  what they did or didn't do on climate (5+ / 0-)

      will define the legacies of all 21st century politicians.

      The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

      by Laurence Lewis on Mon May 05, 2014 at 08:56:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ever read (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      A Canticle for Leibowitz?

      My God, it's full of stars!

      by nuthangerfarm on Wed May 07, 2014 at 07:56:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Right now I'm in the middle of the college (13+ / 0-)

    environmental science class I'm substitute teaching. The students are working on their sustainability projects; I brought this up in class to them when I saw the diary headline. Thanks!

    We have discussed global warming, alternative energy, and sustainability the last three classes.

  •  The last Cosmos scared the heck out of me (6+ / 0-)

    It is possible for a mass extintion to wipe out 90% of all species as in the Permian-Triassic extinction.

    The immediate cause was a raise of temperature;

    Strong evidence suggests the global temperatures increased by about 6 °C (10.8 °F)
    The 2°C temperature raise goal of the scientific community is going to be obliterated before the end of the century.  If I had heir I would be extremely concerned.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Mon May 05, 2014 at 09:49:23 AM PDT

  •  May June and July should all be below (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    400 ppm as the northern hemisphere growing season begins.  a forest is 50% carbon dioxide by weight.

    Be the change that you want to see in the world

    by New Minas on Mon May 05, 2014 at 09:58:00 AM PDT

  •  I have little faith in the ability (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Angie in WA State, maryabein, elwior

    of humanity to deal with this. It's our DNA that's driving this. We cannot be other than who we are: clever apes for whom a few neurotransmitters represents the source of our definition of good. We are going to die out, simple as that, and we will take a lot of other species with us. However, in short order, mad abundance and diversity of life will come back as it has done 5 times before.

    Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

    by Anne Elk on Mon May 05, 2014 at 11:53:03 AM PDT

  •  Last time CO2 was this high our ancestors lived (0+ / 0-)

    in the trees.

    "If Wall Street paid a tax on every “game” they run, we would get enough revenue to run the government on." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Wed May 07, 2014 at 06:49:54 PM PDT

  •  As they say in the hood, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    shit's getting real! I always wanted to say that! Kansas went from amazingly late snow storms to record heat in less than a month. Welcome, pigeons! Your roosts are over here.

    Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

    by Anne Elk on Wed May 07, 2014 at 06:59:07 PM PDT

  •  Apps for climate change awareness (0+ / 0-)

    There's a camera app for Android, Climatic, that tags photos with real time atmospheric CO2 data. The maker is hoping people will post their own images documenting climate change. It's pretty cool.

  •  I Think We're Screwed (0+ / 0-)

    I hope I'm wrong but I don't see the political will nor maybe physical possibility reversing serious climate change. Good luck, humanity. You're going to need it.

    What stronger breast-plate than a heart untainted! Thrice is he arm'd, that hath his quarrel just; And he but naked, though lock'd up in steel, Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted. Henry VI Part II Act 3 Scene 2

    by TerryDarc on Wed May 07, 2014 at 07:18:40 PM PDT

  •  Coastal community discussion re: sea levels (0+ / 0-)

    A coastal community in Washington State is at most a little over ten feet above sea level.  In recent decades there have been floods coming from spring snow melt upriver combined with highest high tides.  Most years, this combination does not happen.

    It is not real popular to talk about sea level rise.  The state highway department, looking at raising roadbeds, is assuming a NOAA projection that draws a line through the past fifty years and extends it forward.  This gets you to about three feet by 2100.

    People are mostly satisfied with that.  There is an assumption the the Army Corps of engineers will be able to dike up low lying coastal areas.  

    People's eyes glaze over when you start talking about the other aspects that might come into play.

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Thu May 08, 2014 at 11:00:50 AM PDT

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