that there will be no ice on either pole and there will be mass extinction in the oceans. At six Celsius degrees, the planet will be uninhabitable. The goal for governments and scientists is to stay below two degrees Celsius increase or we will lose our options.
We Have Already Warmed One Degree According to NASA data and the 2008 IPCC report, over time, the average global temperature is up about 0.74 degrees Celsius. Human activity appears to be the culprit. In the carbon cycle, modern volcanic activity releases only 130 to 230 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year, which is less than 1% of the amount released by human activities.
800,000 Years Beyond Our CO2 Limit Latest figures show that our atmosphere currently has about 392ppm CO2, well above our 350ppm goal. This is the highest it has been for at least 800,000 years according to recent carbon dated ice core samples. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has varied between 180-to210ppm during ice ages, increasing to 280 to 300 ppm during warmer intergalatial periods. Humans have enjoyed modern agriculture due to this approximately 280ppm CO2 level for the last 12,000 years. It was warm enough to allow us to grow grain in melted fertile valleys, yet cold enough to keep the glaciers frozen, but trickling out water for farms and forests. 280ppm has been good to us humans, but since the industrial revolution 200 years ago, we are now beyond our limit. Levels of CO2, however, continue to rise 2ppm annually, according to the NOAA, and largely due to human activity.
Natural CO2 Sinks Filling Up Natural CO2 sources in the past were balanced by natural sinks such as the ocean or plant growth. Burning fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum, puts 22 million tons of CO2 in the oceans every day. Fuel combustion is the leading cause of increased anthropogenic CO2 and deforestation is the second major cause, according to the experts. Population expansion and increasing consumption drive this. Humans are filling up, cutting down, and burning down our CO2 sinks fairly quickly.
350ppm CO2 in the Atmosphere Is the Number Rajendra Pachauri, the U.N.â€™s top climate scientist for the International Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in 2009 stated, after extensive research, that 350ppm CO2 was the upper limit and the bottom line for the stability of the planet. Prior to that in 2007, scientists said that 450ppm would be the number we should aim towards. Then the Arctic melted and new evidence, including ice core CO2 samples, demonstrated that indeed 350ppm is our goal. Doing so will require the United States to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 40% to 80% below 1990 levels by 2020. Above that level, average global temperatures are likely to increase by more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. This is a threshold that more than 100 leaders in Copenhagen, including the G8 leading industrialized nations, agree must not be reached.
Copenhagen or Bust: A Lot of Heat, But No Light Worldwide efforts have been attempted to curb CO2 emissions. What did they accomplish in the latest international effort to curb global warming at the Climate Conference in Copenhagen December 2009? Unfortunately, not much. The United Nations called for this meeting to form an agreement about how much reduction countries should aim toward and develop systems to make that happen. A weak non-binding Copenhagen Accord was drafted by the U.S., China, India, Brazil, and South Africa, but not adopted. Countries varied wildly in their ambition to reduce climate change. Pledges were made by many. The best was Costa Rica, which pledged to become climate neutral by 2021. The European Union was strong on its pledge to reduce emissions 20% to 30% of 1990 levels by 2020, while the United States pledged a 4% reduction. Canada was a little less ambitious than the U.S. at 3% and Brazil pledged that they may range from a 1.8% reduction to a 5% gain in CO2. Significantly more reductions in CO2 are needed. There are sadly still political and economic realities of climate change that make discord more likely than accord. Human reality, however, differs significantly from planetary reality. Letâ€™s look at the numbers. Continued on page 16