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Trump Kills NASA Carbon Monitoring Program as CO2 Levels Soar Past 'Troubling' 410 ppm Threshold
By Jessica Corbett
As the Trump administration charges forward with its war on science by canceling a "crucial" carbon monitoring system at NASA, scientists and climate experts are sounding alarms over atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) that just surpassed a "troubling" threshold for the first time in human history.
"The reading from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii finds that concentrations of the climate-warming gas averaged above 410 parts per million [ppm] throughout April," Chris Mooney wrote for the Washington Post. "The first time readings crossed 410 at all occurred on April 18, 2017, or just about a year ago."
While the planet's concentrations of carbon dioxide fluctuated between roughly 200 ppm and 280 ppm for hundreds of thousands of centuries, as the NASA chart below details, CO2 concentrations have soared since the start of the industrial revolution—and, without urgent global efforts to significantly alter human activities that produce greenhouse gas emissions, show no sign of letting up.
"As a scientist, what concerns me the most is not that we have passed yet another round-number threshold but what this continued rise actually means: that we are continuing full speed ahead with an unprecedented experiment with our planet, the only home we have," Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, told Mooney.
While CO2 levels have passed 400 ppm in the Earth's history, "it has been a long time. And scientists are concerned that the rate of change now is far faster than what Earth has previously been used to," as Mooney explained:
In the mid-Pliocene warm period more than 3 million years ago, they were also around 400 parts per million—but Earth's sea level is known to have been 66 feet or more higher, and the planet was still warmer than now.
As a recent federal climate science report (coauthored by Hayhoe) noted, the 400 parts per million carbon dioxide level in the Pliocene "was sustained over long periods of time, whereas today the global CO2 concentration is increasing rapidly." In other words, Earth's movement toward Pliocene-like conditions may play out in the decades and centuries ahead of us.
As climate scientists continue to warn about the global consequences of rising levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases—such as more intense and frequent extreme weather events—the Trump administration has pursued a multi-pronged anti-science agenda that includes rolling back regulations that aim to limit emissions and blocking future research.
News of the record-high levels of atmospheric carbon came as Science reported that the Trump administration "quietly killed" NASA's $10-million-a-year Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), which "has helped stitch together observations of sources and sinks into high-resolution models of the planet's flows of carbon"—because, as 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben remarked sarcastically, "what you can't see can't cook you."
Citing a NASA spokesman, Science explained: "The White House has mounted a broad attack on climate science, repeatedly proposing cuts to NASA's earth science budget, including the CMS, and cancellations of climate missions such as the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3). Although Congress fended off the budget and mission cuts, a spending deal signed in March made no mention of the CMS. That allowed the administration's move to take effect."
Canceling CMS likely has global ramifications, Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University's Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, pointed out, because the system monitors the Earth's CO2 levels as nations that have signed on to the Paris agreement—from which Trump plans to withdraw—pursue policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement," Gallagher said, calling the decision to kill the system "a grave mistake."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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By Jennifer Molidor
One million species are at risk of extinction from human activity, warns a recent study by scientists with the United Nations. We need to cut greenhouse gas pollution across all sectors to avoid catastrophic climate change — and we need to do it fast, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.
"The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism wishes to inform the public that following extensive consultations with all stakeholders, the Government of Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension," the government announced in a press release shared on social media.
Company Safety Data Sheets on New Chemicals Frequently Lack the Worker Protections EPA Claims They Include
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From 2009 to 2012, Gregory Jaczko was chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which approves nuclear power plant designs and sets safety standards for plants. But he now says that nuclear power is too dangerous and expensive — and not part of the answer to the climate crisis.
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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 ›
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- Needed: A shorter work week – People's World ›