Have We Gone Beyond Dangerous Carbon Levels?

Dangerous carbon levelsIt has long been stated that 450 parts per million (ppm) represents a dangerous threshold for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in regard to climate change. Noted climate activist Bill McKibben traces the arbitrary manner in which this was arrived [ark]. He further reports that leading climate scientist Jim Hansen [search], on the basis of more intensive observation of global warming as it unfolds, now proposes that the threshold for dangerous climate change is in fact 350 (ppm)!?

So what you may ask? Humanity has already pushed carbon concentrations from 275 ppm to 383 ppm. Thus the world's leading climate scientist has concluded we have already surpassed the point where global heating is dangerous, and is on the verge of becoming abrupt and run-away.

My take: we have cut and burnt our way to assured massively disruptive climate changes, yet the rapidity and urgency with which we take action will determine whether this is manageable. We need now to embark immediately upon sufficient climate change policies: an Apollo project for renewable energy, population control, ban on coal, end old-growth logging, reduce economic growth, and build sustainable relocalized communities built around bioregions. Actions of this magnitude are needed to survive.

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20 Responses

  1. Very best for 2008 to Dr. Glen Barry and Friends All,
    Thanks for faithfully distinguishing scientific facts from the specious ideological factoids which are foisted upon people everywhere by a noticeably small group of shrill vendors of conflation, manufactured controversy and confusion.
    Much of the world as we know it could be irretrievably gone and irreversibly damaged by what my elder generation is self-righteously counseling and, perhaps, selfishly doing.
    According to some of our leaders, the world is on track to have its first trillionaire before long and, yes, a tiny minority of the projected and fully anticipated 9+ billion people on the planet by 2050 will be “richer,” much richer. Yesterday's millionaires have been replaced by today's billionaires and today's billonaires will be overtaken by tomorrow's trillionaires, I suppose.
    According to some of our leaders, there is no end to the globalization of economic activity, to increases in per capita consumption of resources, or to the number of people who can live on a planet with the relatively small size, frangible ecosystem services and limited resources of Earth.
    Please know that what all of you report in many places appears clear, coherent and reality-oriented.
    Let us consider how daunting global challenges could be posed to humanity by the unregulated consumption, production and propagation activities of my rapacious, not-so-great generation of elders.
    Although an unwelcome one, perhaps the time is right to deliver a message that is effectively transmitted to the human community's richest, most powerful and famous leaders–the ones directing the talking heads in the mass media, organizing public opinion, formulating government policy and implementing action plans–so the word goes out and is widely shared that the time for ubiquitous, self-limiting behavior change is at hand. Consider that now is the time for human beings to acknowledge and accept human limits and Earth's limitations, and to act accordingly.
    Unrestricted consumption, unbridled production and unrestrained propagation activities of the human species, now occurring on a gigantic, soon-to-become patently unsustainable scale worldwide (the very human activities that appear in the main to be giving rise to ominous, potentially pernicious changes in Earth's ecology) can be reasonably and sensibly managed, modified or otherwise changed, as necessary….. the ill-advised and relentless expansion of economic globalization activities notwithstanding.
    The human community can choose different behavioral repertoires: for example, capping per human consumption, reducing large-scale industrialization activities, and approving humane and voluntary reproduction limits.
    Hopefully, too much time has not been foolishly wasted, too much of the environment degraded, too many species extirpated, many too many resources rampantly dissipated and too much of the world we inhabit utterly compromised, in large part, because leaders are willfully denying the causes and the consequences of our ravenous consumption, reckless production and feckless propagation activities in these early years of Century XXI.
    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population

  2. Please understand that I am concerned my generation of elders could be “selling a bill of goods” to our young people today; but we have no intention of fulfilling our promises and will fail to deliver the goods. In part, these unfortunate circumstances result from my generation's unbridled over-consumption of Earth's finite capacity to sustain life as well as from our reckless and unrestrained dissipation of limited natural resources bound up in the huge scale and growth rate of economic globalization.
    My not-so-great generation appears to be mortgaging and threatening the future of its children by remaining religiously focused upon the endless accumulation of material wealth, the unchecked increase in per capita consumption of scarce resources, and the continuous consolidation of political/military power. Despite all our high-minded rhetoric to the contrary, we need not look far to see that money, power and privilege for ourselves, for our bought-and-paid-for politicians, and for our newly-made rich minions in the mass media are the primary objects of our desire. Regardless of the human-induced calamities that might befall coming generations, the leadership in my generation advises all of us to live long, and live large, in a patently unsustainable world of idle comforts, effortless ease, conspicuous consumption, secret handshakes, exclusive clubs, exotic hideaways and thousands of McMansions and private jets, having abandoned our regard for the less fortunate among us, for the maintenance of life as we know it, and for the preservation of the integrity of Earth.
    Please, now, recognize the single-minded pursuit of dollars, political power and privileges to profligately consume, and to magnificently ignore the practical requirements of biophysical reality, as our raison d'etre, come what may for the children.
    When my not-so-great generation completes its unsavory 'mission' on Earth, I fear young people will look back in anger and utter disbelief at the things we have done and failed to do…..all things we proclaim loudly now as evidence of our many virtues.
    Yes, of course, there is an ecological debt…… but, please, let us get real for a moment and understand what my generation does not want its children to know: your elders have determined to let the ecological debt and looming threats to human and environmental health, for which we are clearly responsible, fall into your lap, come what may.
    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

  3. My fellow Indians & fellow world-citizens,
    In the closing hours of 2007, I wish you a very Happy New Year. I sincerely pray that all of us find contentment and fulfilment in life

  4. R. Gates says:

    And so begins 2008…
    We have now seen that 2007 has been called the most extreme weather year in recorded history. From droughts, to floods, to heatwaves, and more. All over the planet, the effects of Global Warming were seen in 2007 like never before. And no for the question of questions: Did it really matter in terms of waking up the masses of people so that they demanded action from their leaders, or so that enough people felt enough pain that they began to change their lives? Sadly, no. A few yes, but they are still a small minority. Success will only come when the majority are marching on their Congresses and Parliments, and government offices all over the world. Despite 2007 ominous weather extremes, much more will have to occur, much more extreme weather…unimaginably mujch more extreme before the masses take notice and really demand action in extreme ways – as extreme as the weather is becoming.
    Sadly, though there are many valient efforts around the world, I fear that by the time the masses get really engaged, it will be acts of desperation as vital significant tipping points will have been long since passed (if they haven't already).
    So am I a pessimist? No, absolutely not, for as I've stated in many of my posts I take a much longer term perspective on the current rather abrupt human induced climate change. The earth is both for more patient and far wiser than humans. We are but a blip, a mere fraction of fraction of a second when viewed over the whole history of the planet. The earths systems are far more resilent than we give her credit for sometimes. Life will go on for hundreds of millions of yearsm more on earth. Gaia will recover and heal from the naked apes violation of her…and if we are wise and patient and most of all HUMBLE, Gaia may still find a way to change us and guide us to a new way of living – vastly different than what we know now. If the continuation of humantiy is somehow granted, the seeds of the new world are surely in the dreams of harmony and organic wholeness that we have today.
    Be well.

  5. Dear Krish Rao and R. Gates,
    Very best regards for 2008.
    Please know how much your perspectives mean to me. In a short period of time, perhaps in this year, we will see that a few clear voices will begin to heard by many people. And these people will speak what is true to them, as they see it, and as you are doing.
    The way the global economy is currently organized has produced spectacular successes. No doubt about it. Likely you and certainly I are beneficiaries of that astounding expansion of production and distribution capabilities worldwide. Surely, we can share an understanding of a desire on the part of global warming denialists, however misguided, to present ideological factoids of any and every kind to deny good scientfic evidence showing us that we cannot keep doing what we doing now by overpopulating Earth, by conspicuously overconsuming limited resources, and by endlessly "growing" big-business activities and polluting the relatively small, evidently finite, noticeably frangible planet God blesses us to inhabit……..and not to overrun, I suppose.
    If we keep doing what we are doing now, how on Earth can a good enough future for our children be assured? We will consume the lion's share of Earth's resources and, in the process, will dissipate those resources much faster than the resources can be restored by the Earth for the benefit of our children. The way things are going now, I think we can confidently say that we will leave our children with a stupendous economic mortgage to repay as well as an incalculable ecologic debt, most of which cannot be reclaimed.
    Gentlemen, let us look at our predicament another way. If per human overconsumption of scarce resources, unbridled economic globalization, and the skyrocketing increase of absolute global human population numbers could be occurring synergistically in our time, and could have something to do with the distinctly human predicament which looms ominously before humanity, does it not make good and common sense to consider, at least for a moment, what might to done to set limits on increases only in these dangerously overgrown human consumption, production and propagation activities now rampantly overspreading the surface of our planetary home?

  6. David B. Benson says:

    My understanding is that Dr. Hansen stated that the dangerrous level was between 300 ppm and 350 ppm. Everybody seems to have picked up on the larger number, ignoring that it is the upper bound of an interval.
    Be very afraid.

  7. Nick says:

    To begin with, there are a few things here that make a bit of sense, especially in the area of nuclear[ sp ]energy. I am at a loss to explain though, this utterly insane idea, that we can stop global warming, or that we should view it as necessarily evil. To that end, I ask this simple question. IF and I do mean if, man made global warming is real, then why has the worlds average mean temperature flatlined over the last decade? If and again that is a mighty big if, man made Co2 is causing this situation, then why has temeprature stopped rising, while co2 levels continue to increase? The truth is that we cannot now, nor is it likely in the near future, able to control in even the smallest amount, earths climate. that is the domain of the sun, cosmic radiation, and clouds. When you control those things, you control our climate, and good luck doing that.

  8. R. Gates says:

    I fully acribe to the philosophy, “as above, so below” as well as the reverse of that, “as below, so above”. Here's the issue as I see it, and I apologize in advance for being somewhat graphic, but hopefully the site censor will let this pass.
    The selfish gene, the basis of all human life and life in general wants to replicate. Our entire human life can be seen as leading up to the replication of our genetic structure. This is displayed in the basiic sexual urge, and then the instinct of parenting to raise the young so that they might replicate. I call this the “Heat”. It is estimated that at any given moment on earth there are something around 100,000,000 people engaged in sexual intercourse. It is, the “Heat”…the heat of our genetic programming. Now that heat, is translated into all sorts of human activity, for the continuation of the human species. We are “hard wired” this way of course, and our human “heat” gets translated into activities that generate physical heat.
    It is the hard wired nature of humans to want to reproduce and engage in all sorts of other activities which we call civilization, that in the end, only ensure that we are more successful at duplilcation of our genetic structure.
    So what does our human “heat” have to do say, with the melting of the arctic sea ice or Greenland ice cap! Everything! There is, I would argue, a direct relationship between the two. Now please understand, I am not sayinig that human body heat is causing global warming, but the activities of humans, the desire to survive and to procreate are hard wired in us and that desire get's translated into all the Carbon Dioxide producing activities that has caused Global Warming. The 100,000,000 million humans having sex at any given moment is the human equivalent of the huge of amount of green house gases that our economic activity pump into the atmosphere.
    So what the point of all this: simply that humans will not change their economic activity unless forced by Nature to do so. If a government tries to force them (think of the prohibition of the 1930's) they will simply not listen. Only the awsome and non-negotiable force of nature has ever been able to force humans to change that which they are hard wired genetically to do. All the wonderful programs that governments might try will not be so forceful as what nature has in store. Only Heat can fight Heat!
    So in the end, humans will be changed (most likely through catastrophe upon catastrophe). Inevitably, human numbers will be cut back, from our current 6.5 billion or so, to something far smaller and far more sustainable. Human civilzation will continue in some new, and very unique form no doubt, but one thing that will not end is that the Heat, above and below, will go on.
    Be Well…

  9. Adeimantus says:

    Have you not noticed that the 'extreme weather' at the moment is that of high and widespread dumping of snow? Where is the rampant increased rate of warming? Do we really think that 300, 350, 400 or 450 ppm of CO2 (0.03 to 0.045%) can possibly affect the climate? I note that sun spot activity has been quiet: could this be the year when the climate cooled down a bit?
    We'll see, but in the meantime, let's err on the side of caution, cut down our emissions (you never know, there may be some extremely subtle reason why it actually could contribute to global warming), but let's not worry about it overly.
    Sorry to be so annoyingly picky, but come on, look at it from the commonsense angle! Despite his overblown rhetoric, Steve Salmony has it right when he recognises population increase as the factor to be afraid of. Climate, we can do nothing about

  10. R. Gates says:

    Human population is greenhouse warming are intricately and completely linked. What has allowed the tremendous boom in human population? The burining of stored sunlight, fossil fuels. Human population growth and the resultant rapid increase in greenhouse gases are a joint issue, and to cure that issue, nature only has to reduce human populations. It is an easy fix when looked at over the full scope of the history of earth. Reduce human populations and the Earth recovers.

  11. David B. Benson says:

    Nick & Adeimantus — On Real Climate there are many resources, both people and links, which can help relieve you of your misundersandings regarding climate and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
    However, briefly, the physics of global warming (so-called greenhouse gases) is well known: more CO2 means more warmth to come. And come. And come. For about 1500 years.
    That means that humans hae, all inadvertantly, 'controlled' the climate. Most hold that the consequences will be most unpleasant.
    There are many good popular books on the subject. Six Degrees is one.

  12. Patrick Troup says:

    Hello and good day.
    For all the people who say snow and ice are falling, why aren't the temperatures rising are distanced from the very fundamental science of the issue. Global Warming is also Climate Change. Climate Change deals with changing climates around the World, some cooling some warming, some becoming more dry, some more wet. The mean temperature of the entire Earth is rising, but climates are varying inside the whole.

  13. Adeimantus says:

    I know the people at Real Climate are well informed and erudite. However, so are the people at CO2 Science and many other places. Indeed, so are the people at NASA and SSRC who are also linking global warming to sun spot activity. See here for some eye-openers:

  14. D. Farcas says:

    The Space and Science Research Center (SSRC) seems to be lacking in the creditability department.

  15. Amused to death……..
    ……by Roger Waters.
    We watched the tragedy unfold
    We did as we were told
    We bought and sold
    It was the greatest show on earth
    But then it was over
    We oohed and aahed
    We drove our racing cars
    We ate our last few jars of caviar
    And somewhere out there in the stars
    A keen-eyed look-out
    Spied a flickering light
    Our last hurrah
    And when they found our shadows
    Groups 'round the TV sets
    They ran down every lead
    They repeated every test
    They checked out all the data in their lists
    And then the alien anthropologists
    Admitted they were still perplexed
    But on eliminating every other reason
    For our sad demise
    They logged the only explanation left
    This species has amused itself to death….

  16. ewoc says:

    I actually looked at the website you proferred.
    The bright light behind it is a former engineer who worked on the Space Shuttle. He also lists among his qualifications that he was a consultant to the White House. Wanna bet which President? Boy, this source sure is more credible than RealClimate or the IPCC!
    I could set up a website and make claims about the lack of evidence for anthropogenic climate change, and I am certain that I would have a list of followers as long as your arm within a day or two. You'd probably be among them.

  17. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Soar in 2007

    Last year atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increased [ ark | moreark] by 0.6 percent or 19 billion tonnes, and methane rose by 0.5 percent or 27 million tonnes after a decade of little or no increase. Rising carbon dioxide concentrations [search], th…

  18. Civilization's Last Chance: Major GHG Emission Cuts Needed Immediately

    Bill McKibben [search] writes in “Civilization's last chance” [ark] the best summing up of the known threats humanity faces now from climate change if major emission cuts are not pursued immediately. His latest campaign efforts highlights the number 35…

  19. Humanity has already pushed carbon concentrations from 275 ppm to 383 ppm. Thus the world's leading climate scientist has concluded we have already surpassed the point where global heating is dangerous, and is on the verge of becoming abrupt and run-away.

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