If you haven’t already heard, the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii has reported that we have reached atmospheric carbon dioxide levels of 400 parts per million. So what does this mean and why is this big news? This milestone that we have reached unfortunately shows we are moving in the wrong direction. Scientists tell us that we must reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we have in the atmosphere to below 350 parts per million (ppm) to be in the “safe zone” from the climate crisis. This milestone is evidence that while we need to be reducing our CO2 emissions, we are actually increasing emissions. Much of the carbon dioxide that is released into the environment is from human activity and if we do not reduce our output soon, we will cause damage to the planet that can last thousands of years. For those unfamiliar with the Mauna Loa Observatory, atmospheric carbon dioxide readings have been taken on a daily basis since the mid 1950s and have steadily been increasing since then. There is a yearly fluctuation in carbon dioxide levels due to the change in seasons but the overall yearly change has been increasing drastically.
This milestone may seem like a defeat for those fighting to stop climate change, but it is actually a wake up call to those who have not yet made the decision to change. In order for 350 ppm to become a reality, the whole world must agree to change since the majority of the rise in CO2 levels is from burning of fossil fuels. The last time the concentration of greenhouse gasses including carbon dioxide reached this mark, many animals were living in the high Arctic and seas were at least 30 feet higher; today this sea level rise would destroy many coastal cities.
So what should we do? On an individual level, there are many things that can be done to reduce carbon emissions. We can carpool to work, ride bikes and walk to our destinations when we can. We can turn off electronics and lights, and lower the heat when not in the house. While small changes on an individual level will make a big difference, we also must make changes on the national and international level. We must urge our government to acknowledge climate change, pass laws to reduce fossil fuel emissions and reject the Keystone XL pipeline. On an international level, the Global Power Shift is the new phase of the global climate movement. Climate leaders from around the world will meet in Turkey this June and create a new strategy to tackle climate change and spend the rest of the year using this strategy to take action around the world. The more of us that work together around the world, the more of an impact we can make!
For more information: 350.org, www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/10/atmospheric-co2-concentrations_n_3253757.html, globalpowershift.org/get-involved/