There is more CO2 in the atmosphere today than any point since the evolution of humans

(CNN) –“We don’t know a planet like this.”That was the reaction of meteorologist Eric Holthaus to news that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have reached heights not seen in the entirety of human existence — not history, existence.

According to data from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is over 415 parts per million (ppm), far higher than at any point in the last 800,000 years, since before the evolution of homo sapiens.

Holthaus spotted the new high on Sunday when it was tweeted out by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which measures daily CO2 rates at Mauna Loa along with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Measurements have been ongoing since the program was started in 1958 by the late Charles David Keeling, for whom the Keeling Curve, a graph of increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, is named.

“This is the first time in human history our planet’s atmosphere has had more than 415ppm CO2,” Holthaus said in a widely shared tweet.

“Not just in recorded history, not just since the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Since before modern humans existed millions of years ago,” added Holthaus.

During the Pliocene Epoch, some 3 million years ago, when global temperatures were estimated 2-3 degrees Celsius warmer than today, CO2 levels are believed to have topped out somewhere between 310 to 400 ppm.

At that time, the Arctic was covered in trees, not ice, and summer temperatures in the far north are believed to have reached around 15C (60F). Global sea levels during the Pliocene were thought to be a whopping 25 meters (82 feet) higher than today, if not higher.

Devastating effects

High levels of CO2 in the atmosphere — caused by humans burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests — prevent the Earth’s natural cooling cycle from working, trapping heat near the surface and causing global temperatures to rise and rise, with devastating effects.

The release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases has already led to a 1C rise in global temperatures, and we are likely locked in for a further rise, if more immediate action is not taken by the world’s governments.

According to 70 peer-reviewed climate studies, in a world that is 2 degrees warmer, there will be 25% more hot days and heatwaves — which bring with them major health risks and risks of wildfires.

Around the world, 37% of the population will be exposed to at least one severe heatwaves every five years, and the average length of droughts will increase by four months, exposing some 388 million people to water scarcity, and 194.5 million to severe droughts.

Flooding and extreme weather like cyclones and typhoons will increase, wildfires will become more frequent and crop yields will fall. Animal life will be devastated, with some 1 million species at risk of extinction. Mosquitoes however, will thrive, meaning a further 27% of the planet will be at risk of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.

That’s all at 2 degrees, a target that is increasingly becoming a hopeful one. At a temperature rise of 3 or 4 degrees, we enter a “hothouse Earth” stage that could render many parts of the planet uninhabitable.

All of this has been predicted for decades now. We also know what needs to be done to stop it — a drastic cut in carbon emissions, reforestation and creation of carbon sinks, and new technologies for carbon capture and other innovations, or, in the words of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

This can be done, and many are organizing to try to force their governments to take action, but we are running out of time to avoid a world that we literally do not know how to handle.

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4 comments

  • Derp

    CO2 at record high levels and yet the planet is cooling off. Hmm…maybe all human activity shouldn’t be taxed after all.

  • LOL@Klimate Katastrophe Kooks

    Fox should be ashamed at promulgating the standard climate change meme. Let’s look at some actual science, shall we?

    Particle physics and the fundamental physical laws show CO2 causes cooling, not warming. All radiative emission to space is a cooling process, and CO2 is one of only a handful of atmospheric molecules which can radiatively emit. In fact, it is the most important coolant in the upper atmosphere. Below the tropopause, water vapor plays a larger role, with CO2 playing a smaller relative role. N2 and O2, comprising 99% of the atmosphere, are homonuclear diatomics with no net magnetic dipole, and therefore cannot effectively emit (nor absorb) IR… so the only way they can shed energy is by transferring translational mode energy to vibrational mode energy of radiative gases, which then radiatively emit that energy out to space. The only way our planet can shed energy is via radiative emission to space.

    Natural CO2 emission lags temperature change due to Henry’s Law. And the massive carbon sinks in the biosphere and oceans means even a small change in the absorption / emission ratio swamps anthropogenic emission. The del13 ratio of the atmosphere shows only ~14% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions remain in the atmosphere, with the remainder being diluted into far larger carbon reservoirs than the atmosphere.

    So past climate change likely happened something like this: Solar EUV increased, raising planetary temperature, the oceans off-gassed CO2 in accord with Henry’s Law. The CO2 increased OLR (Outgoing Longwave Radiation), damping the temperature excursion. The sun went into a quiescent phase and the planet started cooling, but that CO2 was still in the atmosphere and slowly being absorbed by the cooling oceans (again, in accord with Henry’s Law), so the CO2 was still dumping radiation to space and cooling the planet faster than it otherwise would have cooled, tilting the planet into a glaciation period. As the CO2 was absorbed, OLR decreased, setting up conditions for planetary warming when the sun next increased its output. This may be why the planet went into glaciation periods in the past with atmospheric CO2 levels as much as 17 times higher than today.

    In short, the climate alarmists have it exactly backwards… I’ve noticed they tend to do that a lot.

    The radiative cooling of air via solely translational mode energy converting to radiation
    CO2{v20(0)} (at 288K+) + CO2{v20(0)} (at 288K+) -> CO2{v20(0)} + C02{v21(1)} -> CO2{v20(0)} + CO2{v20(0)} + 667.4 cm-1

    You’ll note the above interaction is a direct conversion of translational mode energy (which we perceive as temperature) to 14.98352 µm radiation. This directly cools the air, and the effect is significant, since nearly all the translational mode energy is converted to radiation, leaving the CO2 molecules at a very low temperature, whereupon they absorb energy by colliding with other atmospheric constituents. The effect begins taking place significantly at ~288 K, the temperature at which the majority of the molecules will have sufficient translational mode energy to convert to vibrational mode energy.

    288 K also happens to be the stated average global temperature… that is not a coincidence, it is a mechanism long known (study linked below), partly a result of CO2 radiative emission ramping up at ~288 K. As CO2 concentration increases, this effect will become more pronounced, increasingly damping any temperature excursions above ~288 K by increase of radiative emission via this interaction, and below ~288 K by reduction of radiative emission via this interaction.

    It is not necessary for CO2{v20(0)} to collide with another CO2 molecule for this interaction to take place, any other molecule will do… the Equipartition Theorem dictates that all atmospheric constituents at the same temperature will have the same translational mode energy. So in reality, the above interaction could be represented thusly:
    X (at 288K+) + CO2{v20(0)} (at 288K+) -> X + C02{v21(1)} -> X + CO2{v20(0)} + 667.4 cm-1
    where X is any atmospheric molecule.

    Further, you’ll note that if a CO2 molecule is already in the CO2{v21(1)} vibrational mode quantum state, a collision at just 0.1 K higher temperature (ie: ~288.1 K) can excite it to the CO2{v22(2)} state, whereupon it can emit a 14.97454 µm photon to de-excite to the CO2{v21(1)} state, and a 14.98352 µm photon to de-excite to the CO2{v20(0)} state.

    Even further, you’ll note that if a CO2 molecule is already in the CO2{v22(2)} vibrational mode quantum state, a collision at just 0.1 K higher temperature (ie: ~288.2 K) can excite it to the CO2{v23(3)} state, whereupon it can emit a 14.96782 µm photon to de-excite to the CO2{v22(2)} state, a 14.97454 µm photon to de-excite to the CO2{v21(1)} state, and a 14.98352 µm photon to de-excite to the CO2{v20(0)} state.

    This implies that for temperatures above ~288 K, more of the translational energy of atmospheric molecules will flow to CO2 vibrational mode quantum state energy, rather than vibrational mode quantum state energy of CO2 flowing to translational energy of other atmospheric molecules, simply for the fact that at and above that temperature, the combined translational energy of two colliding molecules is sufficient to excite the CO2 vibrational modes. This increases the time duration of CO2 vibrational mode quantum state excitation and therefore the probability that CO2 will radiatively emit, breaking LTE. Therefore the energy flow is to CO2, not from it.

    In other words, at and above ~288 K, the combined translational mode energy of two molecules is higher than C02{v21(1)} vibrational mode energy, and therefore energy will flow to CO2 from other atmospheric molecules’ translational mode energy during molecular collision, simply because CO2 can radiatively emit that energy and break LTE, rather than that energy flowing back to other molecules.
    ———-
    Satellites see CO2 and (a bit of) water vapor radiating at the temperature of the lower stratosphere (at the ‘characteristic-emission surface’ altitude, or just less than one optical depth from TOA for any given wavelength) all over the planet. This is because ozone (O3, excited by incoming solar radiation) and collisional processes excite nitrogen (N2) to its {v1(1)} (symmetric stretch) vibrational mode, and N2 then transfers energy to the {v3(1)} (asymmetric stretch) mode of CO2 via collision as shown in the image, whereupon the vibrationally excited CO2 partially de-excites by dropping from the {v3(1)} (asymmetric stretch) mode to either the {v1(1)} (symmetric stretch) mode by emitting a 10.4 µm photon, or to the {v20(2)} (bending) mode by emitting a 9.4 µm photon.
    ———-
    ALL radiative emission to space is, by definition, a cooling process. CO2 is not a ‘heat trapping, global warming’ gas, it is a radiative gas, one of the few molecules which can radiatively emit energy to space. Without it, the planet would heat up… there is almost no water vapor above the tropopause, which is why CO2 is the prevalent coolant in the upper atmosphere. If the upper atmosphere cannot cool, then air cannot convect upward, heating the entirety of the atmosphere because it would no longer be able to effectively convect.

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