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CO2 CONCENTRATION IN THE ATMOSPHERE: 500 ppm within 50 years?

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CO2 concentration in the atmosphere continues its escalation. It is the best indicator that gives us a scientific measure of climate change. According to the latest observations at the center of Mauna Loa (June 2017), the measure is about 408 ppm, and is growing at a rate of 2.7 ppm per year (last year in June it was just above 405 ppm). This means that if we do not act immediately, within 50 years, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will exceed 500 ppm, the threshold beyond which any scientists expect a severe climate change ... These are the observations ... What we can do to stop the trend?

 
The meaning of the measure
 
Climate change is becoming the most important challenge for humanity in the near future. Understanding the driving factors of global warming is a starting (and key) point in order to correctly address this challenge. One of these factors is CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. In fact, according to the record of CO2 and temperature preserved in ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, there is a clear correlation between CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and air temperature (the higher the concentration, the higher air temperature will be).
 
This is why every six months we show (at www.lteconomy.it/en) the weekly figures on CO2 concentration observed at the Mauna Loa centre (the site chosen by Charles D. Keeling, the scientist who started the studies on the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere). CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is measured in part per million (ppm). For more details on the meaning of this measure, see the following  article and the interview with Pieter Tans, Head of the Maunha Loa Observatory.
 
 
A jump into the past: May 2013 data and a comparisons between annual peaks
 
The May 9th 2013 figure is extremely significant as CO2 concentration at the Mauna Loa Observatory reached (for the first time since the beginning of recording) 400 parts per million (ppm). It is a high value, considering that it was 280 ppm in the pre-industrial era and a concentration of 500 ppm is considered by some scientists as a tipping point, by which Earth will reach a new hotter equilibrium.
 
After the peak reached in May, considering seasonality, data gradually reduced till the minimum in September 2013. Then CO2 concentration recovered again, and, year after year has reached new peaks. The latest one in the second week of May 2017 at 410.36 ppm.
 
 
The long term analysis confirms an uprising trend
 
During the year, the CO2 concentration is strongly influenced by the intensity of economic activity. There is therefore a seasonal pattern in each year: starting from January the figure rises to reach a peak in May, and then lowers again to a minimum which generally occurs in September.
 
However, year after year, we are observing an uprising trend. Just make a year on year comparison of weekly data: it is observed an annual increase ranging between 2 and 3 ppm.
 
Now let’s give a look at the latest data available. In the fourth week of June 2017, CO2 concentration was 407.7 ppm, much higher than the level observed in the fourth week of June2016 (406.0) and of June 2015 (402.2).
 
If we make a year on year comparison of the fourth week of each month, an average increase of 2.80 ppm has been recorded during the last 2 years (see the table).
 
 
The scenery
 
If this trend is to continue, and we consider an optimistic annual increase of 2 ppm, CO2 concentration will reach 500 ppm in just a 50 years, with a big impact on humankind and all the planet. CO2 concentration in the atmosphere must be absolutely reduced; but this must be done in a wider strategy aimed at resolving the current ecological crisis. We must change the current economic model from a short term view to a long term one.
 
 
Tab. Co2 concentration at Mauna Loa center since January 2014, year-on-year comparison
Period
CO2 concentration (in ppm)
Period
CO2 concentration (in ppm)
ch. (in ppm)
Jan. 2014 4th week
397.8
Jan. 2015 4th week
400.18
2.38
Feb. 2014 4th week
397.72
Feb. 2015 4th week
401.1
3.38
Mar. 2014 4th week
399.86
Mar. 2015 4th week
401.75
1.89
Apr. 2014 4th week
402.15
Apr. 2015 4th week
403.78
1.63
May. 2014 4th week
401.69
May. 2015 4th week
403.81
2.12
Jun. 2014 4th week
400.82
Jun. 2015 4th week
402.17
1.35
Jul. 2014 4th week
397.74
Jul. 2015 4th week
400.21
2.47
Aug. 2014 4th week
396.47
Aug. 2015 4th week
398.84
2.37
Sep. 2014 4th week
395.41
Sep. 2015 4th week
397.2
1.79
Oct. 2014 4th week
397.16
Oct. 2015 4th week
398.48
1.32
Nov. 2014 4th week
397.9
Nov. 2015 4th week
400.37
2.47
Dec. 2014 4th week
399.65
Dec. 2015 4th week
402.07
2.42
Jan. 2015 4th week
400.18
Jan. 2016 4th week
403.11
2.93
Feb. 2015 4th week
401.1
Feb. 2016 4th week
404.01
2.91
Mar. 2015 4th week
401.75
Mar. 2016 4th week
405.42
3.67
Apr. 2015 4th week
403.78
Apr. 2016 4th week
407.79
4.01
May. 2015 4th week
403.81
May. 2016 4th week
407.53
3.72
Jun. 2015 4th week
402.17
Jun. 2016 4th week
405.97
3.8
Jul. 2015 4th week
400.21
Jul. 2016 4th week
403.47
3.26
Aug. 2015 4th week
398.84
Aug. 2016 4th week
400.98
2.14
Sep. 2015 4th week
397.2
Sep. 2016 4th week
400.72
3.52
Oct. 2015 4th week
398.48
Oct. 2016 4th week
402.81
4.33
Nov. 2015 4th week
400.37
Nov. 2016 4th week
404.38
4.01
Dec. 2015 4th week
402.07
Dec. 2016 4th week
404.74
2.67
Jan. 2016 4th week
403.11
Jan. 2017 4th week
406.48
3.37
Feb. 2016 4th week
404.01
Feb. 2017 4th week
407.37
3.36
Mar. 2016 4th week
405.42
Mar. 2017 4th week
408.37
2.95
Apr. 2016 4th week
407.79
Apr. 2017 4th week
409.92
2.13
May. 2016 4th week
407.53
May. 2017 4th week
409.52
1.99
Jun. 2016 4th week
405.97
Jun. 2017 4th week
407.71
1.74
 
 
 
Average Change
2.74

Source: LTEconomy, elaboration on ESRL-NOAA

 
 

Graph - Co2 concentration in ppm, Mauna Loa, weekly data


Source: LTEconomy, elaborationon ESRL-NOAA data
 
 
LTEconomy, 01 August 2017
 
From NSIDC, July 2017
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/data.html

 

 

 

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