Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

415 PPM: We Are All Part of Exxon’s Unchartered Climate Experiment Now

Insights + Opinion
NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii', where researchers measured atmospheric carbon dioxide levels of 415 ppm. Christopher Michel / CC BY 2.0

By Andy Rowell

Earlier this month, we collectively walked into the unknown.

We are all now a living experiment. Never before in human history have carbon dioxide levels reached 415 parts per million.


These levels were last seen maybe some 2.5 to 5 million years ago, during the Pliocene, but then the earth was much warmer than it is today and it was way before us.

Back then, there was no Greenland and trees grew near the South Pole. Sea levels were much, much higher. Maybe 25 meters (approximately 82 feet) higher.

415 ppm is a grim number. It signals we are in deep, deep trouble. And in the words of Rolling Stone magazine: "Further evidence (as if further evidence were needed) of just how hell-bent we are on cooking the planet we live on."

To show you how much we are changing the climate: Every year another 2 to 3 ppm of carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere. Before the industrial revolution it was 280 ppm. And now it is 415 ppm.

We could have stopped the relentless rise of carbon dioxide, but we did not. In part the reason we collectively have failed to do so is the power of the oil companies and one of the most sophisticated public relations exercises ever undertaken to deny and obfuscate the truth.

The oil companies could have acted and kickstarted the renewable revolution, but they did not. But they knew. #ExxonKnew.

As Think Progress noted this week, one of the documents obtained by InsideClimate News into its investigation into what Exxon knew about climate science decades ago was an internal 1982 document from the Exxon Research and Engineering Company.

In this document the oil company mapped the "growth of atmospheric CO2 and average global temperature increase" over time.

Amazingly, as Think Progress highlights, "the company predicted that that, by 2020, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would reach roughly 400 to 420 ppm. This month's measurement of 415 ppm is right within the expected curve Exxon projected under its "21st Century Study-High Growth scenario."

Exxon not only predicted the future, it also knew how bad it could be.

Not only did Exxon predict the rise in emissions, it also understood how severe the consequences would be, including warning of "considerable adverse impact" of rising carbon dioxide levels, including flooding and the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Exxon knew all this, but instead of acting, went on to pour tens of millions of dollars into a massive disinformation campaign that we still see today being spouted by President Trump and Fox News.

No wonder climate scientists are alarmed at us reaching 415 ppm.

Professor Michael Mann told Think Progress, "If you do the math, we'll cross 450 ppm — which likely locks in dangerous planetary warming of more than 2°C/3.5°F — in just over a decade".

Peter Gleick, the president emeritus at the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security added: "Not that we need it, but the latest numbers are further evidence of the massive impact humans are having on our atmosphere and climate … We are entering an era never before experienced by humans."

Meteorologist and journalist Eric Holthaus noted on Twitter:

We don't know a planet like this. We don't know what will happen, except that climate chaos will get worse. We do know the answers, though.

As Oil Change International pointed out yesterday, in yet another groundbreaking report, we have to stop drilling. It really is that simple. Not tomorrow. Not today. But yesterday. We need a just transition now.

Predictably, the denial in the Trump Administration continues: This week, Donald Trump's interior secretary said he had not "lost sleep over" over the 415 ppm figure.

David Bernhardt, who is a former oil and gas lobbyist, said, "I believe the United States is number 1 in terms of decreasing CO2." He added: "I haven't lost any sleep over it."

Meanwhile, just as Exxon warned that Antarctica would be in trouble, there is new research published showing just how bad things are.

According to new academic research published in Geophysical Research Letters, warming of the Southern Ocean now means that ice is being lost from Antarctic glaciers five times faster than in the 1990s.

It is yet another sign we are in deep, deep trouble.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A coke storage area is seen as steam rises from the quench towers at the US Steel Clairton Works on Jan. 21, 2020, in Clairton, Pennsylvania. White plumes of smoke billow above western Pennsylvania's rolling hills as scorching ovens bake coal, which rolls in by the trainload along the Monongahela River. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's claim that the U.S. has the cleanest air and water in the world has been widely refuted by statistics showing harmful levels of pollution. Now, a new biannual ranking released by researchers at Yale and Columbia finds that the U.S. is nowhere near the top in environmental performance, according to The Guardian.

Read More Show Less
Students walk by a sign reading "Climate Change" at the Doctor Tolosa Latour public school in Madrid, Spain on Sept. 9, 2014. In the U.S., New Jersey will be the first state to make the climate crisis part of its curriculum for all K-12 students. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP via Getty Images

New Jersey has invested in the future health of the planet by making sure the next generation of adults knows how human activity has had a deleterious effect on the planet. The state will be the first in the nation to make the climate crisis as part of its curriculum for all students, from kindergarten all the way to 12th grade, as NorthJersey.com reported.

Read More Show Less
Some reservations are reporting infection rates many times higher than those observed in the general U.S. population. grandriver / Getty Images

By Lindsey Schneider, Joshua Sbicca and Stephanie Malin

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is novel, but pandemic threats to indigenous peoples are anything but new. Diseases like measles, smallpox and the Spanish flu have decimated Native American communities ever since the arrival of the first European colonizers.

Read More Show Less
As we continue to grapple with the issues of overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change, there exists an opportunity to address these existential threats with new innovations. Sawitree Pamee / EyeEm

By Kaya Bulbul

The ocean is our lifeline - we rely on it for the food we eat, the air we breathe, as well as for millions for jobs worldwide.

As we continue to grapple with the issues of overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change, there exists an opportunity to address these existential threats with new innovations, many of which unidentified or insufficiently supported.

Read More Show Less
The coronavirus adds a new wrinkle to the debate over the practice of eminent domain as companies continue to work through the pandemic, vexing landowners. Patrick J. Endres / Getty Images

By Jeremy Deaton

Pipeline giant Kinder Morgan is cutting a 400-mile line across the middle of Texas, digging up vast swaths of private land for its planned Permian Highway Pipeline. The project is ceaseless, continuing through the coronavirus pandemic. Landowner Heath Frantzen said that dozens of workers have showed up to his ranch in Fredericksburg, even as public health officials urged people to stay at home.

Read More Show Less
Weeds dying in a soybean field impacted by dicamba spraying. JJ Gouin / iStock / Getty Images

A federal court overturned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approval of dicamba Wednesday, meaning the controversial herbicide can no longer be sprayed in the U.S.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Smoke rises from a cement factory in Castleton in the High Peak district of Derbyshire, England. john finney photography / Moment / Getty Images

Human activity has pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide to higher levels today than they have been at any other point in the last 23-million-years, potentially posing unprecedented disruptions in ecosystems across the planet, new research suggests.

Read More Show Less