Goodbye cruel world: we’ve passed the carbon tipping point | Culture | Geek.com

We have passed a grim new milestone for atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, probably for good. Earlier this week Mauna Loa Observatory, a key site for keeping tabs on carbon dioxide measured 400 parts per million — a figure that some researchers have claimed would be the critical tipping point for the Earth.

Numbers higher than 400 ppm have been observed a few times in the last decade, what makes this significant is that September is usually the month when global C02 levels are at the lowest.

Ralph Keeling, a scientist at the Scripps Institute for Oceanography and lead on their CO2 monitoring program wrote that it was “almost impossible” that we will drop below 400 ppm in the coming months. “Brief excursions toward lower values are still possible, but it already seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year – or ever again for the indefinite future.”

I won’t waste time debating whether or not global climate change is a thing. The overwhelming majority of scientists and researchers that cover climatologic and atmospheric science support the theory. It’s also one of the best-supported theories in the whole of science. That said, what happens next isn’t completely clear.

We know, for example, that the Earth has a lot of feedback loops that can (and have) caused runaway climate change in the past. For example, when global temperatures cross certain thresholds, they trigger other effects that accelerate warming. So far, the consensus is that the oceans have taken the biggest hit, absorbing the majority of the temperature increase. They’re dark and absorb more of the sun’s heat than the ice caps, plus ocean currents can shift excess heat all around — something the hard and rocky crust can’t. But, that time may be coming to a close soon. As our planet continues to warm, more and more ice will melt. That’s really bad news. The ice caps are reflective and bounce a lot of extra heat back out into space. As they melt and become oceans, they’ll absorb more heat and melt, even more, ice. That’s just one potential scenario, but it’s emblematic of what we face as a species.

Goodbye cruel world: we’ve passed the carbon tipping point | Culture | Geek.com

We still may not see major effects for another few years, and that’s part of the problem. Any major potential solutions have to be started now. Options like new nuclear power plants can take ten years or more to build. It’s possible that crossing this threshold will scare more people into action, and help more nations to commit to lowering carbon emissions.

The Paris Agreement is the first and largest step towards stopping the actual, literal apocalypse. So far more than 60 nations have agreed to the international resolution to dramatically cut carbon emissions. But together they make up just shy of 50% of global carbon output. The US, China, and loads of other major, industrialized countries need to commit to working together on one massive global project to save life on Earth. It won’t be easy; it will cost trillions and trillions of dollars, but it’ll be the best investment we can possibly make.

Not cutting emissions will cost many, many times more than building out the infrastructure we need right now, especially as rising sea levels, depletion of marine life, etc. force us to find new homes and sources of food.

I urge you: talk to your friends. Talk to your family. Talk to anyone who will listen. Call politicians. Send letters. Get ahold of the biggest decision makers you can and encourage them to commit to change and talk to their colleagues. There is still time, but we are running out… and fast.

Goodbye cruel world: we’ve passed the carbon tipping point | Culture | Geek.com

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