'Single Most Important Stat on the Planet': Alarm as Atmospheric CO2 Soars to 'Legit Scary' Record High
By Jake Johnson
In another alarming signal that the international community is failing to take the kind of ambitious action necessary to avert global climate catastrophe, NOAA released new data Tuesday showing that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels — which environmentalist Bill McKibben described as the "single most important stat on the planet" — reached a "record high" in the month of May.
"The measurement is the highest seasonal peak recorded in 61 years of observations on top of Hawaii's largest volcano and the seventh consecutive year of steep global increases in concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2)," NOAA said in a statement on Tuesday. "The 2019 peak value was 3.5 PPM higher than the 411.2 PPM peak in May 2018 and marks the second-highest annual jump on record."
According to NOAA's measurements — which were taken at the Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory in Hawaii — carbon dioxide levels peaked at an average of 414.7 PPM in May.
As The Guardian reported, "Scientists have warned for more than a decade that concentrations of more than 450 PPM risk triggering extreme weather events and temperature rises as high as 2°C, beyond which the effects of global heating are likely to become catastrophic and irreversible."
Reacting to NOAA's new measurements, McKibben tweeted, "This is legit scary."
Single most important stat on the planet: CO2 rose 3.5 parts per million last year, 2nd-highest annual rise on reco… https://t.co/mTVzjv93eL— Bill McKibben (@Bill McKibben)1559740615.0
In a report last October, United Nations scientists warned that global carbon emissions must be cut in half by 2030 in order to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.
As Common Dreams reported last month when levels at Maun Loa briefly hit 415 PPM, the occurrence was described as otherworldly for humanity and something not experienced by the planet in over three million years.
Climate scientist Peter Gleick noted that the "last time humans experienced levels this high was ... never. Human[s] didn't exist."
Atmospheric CO2 levels have now reached 415 ppm. The last time humans experienced levels this high was... never. Hu… https://t.co/2LQHJxhJBc— Peter Gleick (@Peter Gleick)1557761812.0
NOAA's new data for the month of May as a whole comes amid a global wave of youth-led marches and civil disobedience demanding immediate climate action from political leaders.
In her forward to 350.org campaigner Daniel Hunter's newly published Climate Resistance Handbook, Greta Thunberg—the 16-year-old Swedish activist who helped inspire the worldwide surge in youth climate mobilizations—argued that the success or failure of the global climate movement will be determined by one measure: "the emission curve."
"People always tell me and the other millions of school strikers that we should be proud of ourselves for what we have accomplished," Thunberg wrote. "But the only thing that we need to look at is the emission curve. And I'm sorry, but it's still rising. That curve is the only thing we should look at."
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
"Every time we make a decision we should ask ourselves; how will this decision affect that curve?" Thunberg added. "We should no longer measure our wealth and success in the graph that shows economic growth, but in the curve that shows the emissions of greenhouse gases."
"We should no longer only ask: 'Have we got enough money to go through with this?' but also: 'Have we got enough of the carbon budget to spare to go through with this?'" Thunberg wrote. "That should and must become the center of our new currency."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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