Civilization’s Last Chance: Major GHG Emission Cuts (and Even Removal) Needed Immediately

Emissions cuts are needed immediatelyBill McKibben [search] writes in “Civilization's last chance” [ark] the best summing up of the known threats facing humanity now from climate change if major emission cuts are not pursued immediately. His latest campaign efforts highlight the number 350, which he calls “the most important number on Earth” because of scientific understanding that if carbon emissions are not stablized at 350 ppm, it will not be possible “to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed.”
It has been noted here that at 383 ppm we are already well past this threshold, and thus achieving 350 ppm will require gargantuan efforts if we are to survive much less prosper. The piece is a clarion call that long predicted limits to growth have arrived and the fate of civilization depends upon urgent massive emission cuts now, tomorrow, next year and certainly for the years and decades well before 2050 as is being proposed [ark | search].

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10 Responses

  1. zephyr says:

    I've been watching this monitoring site for over six years now:
    AIR MAP New England
    Current CO2 reading:
    May 11, 2008
    Thompson Farm, NH
    10:00pm EDT
    CO2 ppmv – 401
    The UNH Observing Station at Thompson Farm is located in Durham, NH approximately two miles south of University of New Hampshire (43.11N, 70.95W, elevation 75ft). The site is characterized by rolling fields surrounded by mixed forest. Most of the air quality measurements are performed on air sampled from the top of a forty foot tower. One of NOAA's Climate Reference Network meteorological stations is also located at Thompson Farm.
    Readings are taken every 15 minutes around the clock, 365 days a year.
    The average reading for CO2 at this site has been well over 350 ppmv for some time now.
    On this page, click on “View Archived Plots” in the left-hand column:'site=AIRMAPTF
    On the next page, under “Thompson Farm” click on any month going all the way back to 2001.
    On the page that comes up next, click on “CO2” in the top center hyperlinks column. A CO2 plot will then come up for that month.

  2. alan hill says:

    lets all get going for mother earth NOW. we are the custodians for the other species who share our planet
    Reduce reuse recycle and more walking its good for you,

  3. Juola (Joe) A. Haga says:

    Abstractly one might find it an interesting dilemma. Today turn folk, like you and me, to the number seven billion, on a dime. Or tomorrow fry our brains with war, famine, and fever. Will experience trump will?

  4. Michael Sackin says:

    Dear Glenn,
    On a detail, but, I dare say, an important one, doesn't the maximum level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere depend significantly on the amounts of other greenhouse gases, such as methane and water vapour, in the atmosphere? If that's the case then I'd have thought it was meaningless to give a single CO2 figure. If had a very quick look at but can see no mention there.
    There's a Bill going through Parliament in the UK that similarly ignores non-CO2 gases. The Bill is being strengthened as a result of lobbying e.g. by Friends of the Earth, but even FOE seem not to be taking up the issue of non-CO2 greenhouse gases.
    Best wishes,
    Michael Sackin

  5. Dr. Glen Barry says:

    Good point. It is the carbon equivalent in terms of radiative forcing that matters. I think they are embracing a simple campaign message to build awareness. The basic point is the same regardless: we have surpassed the amount of emissions that ensures a climate similar to what has existed in recent history.

  6. John says:

    With all the talk of carbon offsets etc nothing is being done to offset our past emissions since 2nd world war that are the drivers of clmate change as far as its caused by human activity. Rockefellas – you are about 15 years too late – you should have listened when I lobbied u and Ex-on in 92 in NY.
    Now the only hope is the good nature of mother earth who does not recognise private wealth or corporate prophets. She rocks u !!!

  7. Almuth Ernsting says:

    There seems little doubt that the current greenhouse gas levels already commit us to dangerous climate change. However, I am deeply concerned that plans for 'negative emissions', i.e. for reducing atmospheric CO2 levels could hasten and worsen the climate catastrophe and the unfolding mass extinction. What does Hansen mean by 'reducing CO2 concentrations? He admits that air capture of CO2 is not feasible with current technology. Instead he supports proposals for large-scale bioenergy with carbon capture or storage, either underground or in the form of charcoal (biochar), to be dug into the soil in the hope that it will stay there. Today's rush for biofuels is already calamitous, with tens of millions of hectares being turned into agrofuel monocultures. The scheme Hansen suggests could save us will see hundreds of millions of hectares of bioenergy plantations. It is hard to see how any life on earth will survive such a catastrophic 'land-conversion' programme on top of global warming and all other environmental disasters.

  8. Perhaps change is in the offing as a "forced-choice".
    Endless economic growth is the shibboleth of the rich and powerful in our time. But the days of reckless domination of the Earth and its environs may be numbered, it would appear, because the idolatry, the magical thinking, the wishes and the selfish intentions that have driven endlessly expanding large-scale corporate activity and insatiable wealth accumulation could be about to run their course. The plans of the economic powerbrokers and their bought-and-paid-for politicians for

  9. Anonymous says:

    AIR MAP New England
    Current CO2 reading:
    May 14, 2008
    Thompson Farm, NH
    8:30am EDT
    CO2 ppmv – 432
    Steve Salmony wrote:
    …..Perhaps change is in the offing as a "forced-choice"…..
    Not a moment too soon in my view.

  10. Dear Anonymous,
    Many thanks! If I may follow up on your obvious point.
    As you surely suggest to us, there is no time like the present for needed change.
    Is the tiptop of the human construction we call the global political economy a place from which leadership can gain a reality-oriented view of what is happening on the surface of the Earth? Perhaps those of us at the top of the global economic pyramid are living in a secluded, unmaintainable material world of our own making and are willfully refusing to accept the limitations of the natural world in which the rest of the family of humanity lives.
    If it turns out that the conspicuous consumption and relentless hoarding of the rich, the famous and the powerful are evidence of unsustainable lifestyles, what is the human community to do differently? Perhaps necessary change is in the offing.
    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001

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