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Carbon Dioxide Levels Set to Pass 400 ppm and Remain Above Symbolic Threshold Permanently
By Nadia Prupis
Record carbon dioxide levels are set to surpass the symbolic threshold of 400 parts per million (ppm) this year and will likely never fall below that line again in our lifetimes, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Scientists at the UK Met Office used emissions data, sea surface temperature figures and a climate model from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii to track the trajectory of CO2 levels and found that carbon dioxide "will for the first time remain above 400 ppm all year and hence for our lifetimes."
Emissions have increased over the past 12 months due to the continued burning of fossil fuels, but the impact has also been exacerbated by an unbridled El Niño event. Reports from earlier this year also found that 2016 is poised to become the hottest year in recorded history.
"It's a sign we are still on track for a high emissions scenario. We won't be looking at below 400 ppm in our lifetimes," Richard Betts, co-author of the study and Met Office scientist, told Climate Home.
The outlet's editor Ed King reports:
The fact emissions rose faster than usual, Betts told Climate Home, was no surprise.
Higher CO2 rates are expected as El Nino warms and dries tropical land areas, slowing the uptake of carbon by trees and plants and increasing the risks of forest fires.
[....] If and when the world continues to warm as the UN's climate science panel predicts it will based on current rates of warming gases, the threat of more fires at that scale could rise.
The study also found that devastating forest fires in Indonesia in 2015 and 2016—which NASA scientists warned at the time were the worst climate crisis on Earth—may have fueled about 20 percent of El Niño's addition worldwide CO2 levels.
Carbon concentrations have passed the 400 ppm limit before, but never permanently. The new study confirms that those days may be over for good.
"Once you have passed that barrier, it takes a long time for CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere by natural processes," Betts told the Guardian on Monday. "Even if we cut emissions, we wouldn't see concentrations coming down for a long time, so we have said goodbye to measurements below 400 ppm at Mauna Loa."
The authors write: "In the longer term, a reduction in CO2 concentration would require substantial and sustained cuts in anthropogenic emissions to near zero."
The safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is around 350 ppm maximum, climate advocates say. But according to Betts, "We could be passing above 450 ppm in roughly 20 years."
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By Brett Walton
When Greg Wetherbee sat in front of the microscope recently, he was looking for fragments of metals or coal, particles that might indicate the source of airborne nitrogen pollution in Rocky Mountain National Park. What caught his eye, though, were the plastics.
In a big victory for animals, Prada has announced that it's ending its use of fur! It joins Coach, Jean Paul Gaultier, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood, Michael Kors, Donna Karan and many others PETA has pushed toward a ban.
This is a victory more than a decade in the making. PETA and our international affiliates have crashed Prada's catwalks with anti-fur signs, held eye-catching demonstrations all around the world, and sent the company loads of information about the fur industry. In 2018, actor and animal rights advocate Pamela Anderson sent a letter on PETA's behalf urging Miuccia Prada to commit to leaving fur out of all future collections, and the iconic designer has finally listened.
If people in three European countries want to fight the climate crisis, they need to chill out more.
"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.
The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.
The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.
"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
- Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change ›
- How working less could solve all our problems. Really. | ›
- Needed: A shorter work week – People's World ›