Carbon reading is a grim milestone
Last Thursday, the atmospheric monitoring station on Mauna Loa recorded, for the first time, a daily average carbon dioxide level of over 400 parts per million. This grim milestone is a testament to our inadequate effort to halt the world’s rising greenhouse gas emissions.
A generation ago, scientists calculated that 350 ppm was the upper threshold for the planet to safely sustain human life. Glacier samples indicate that the 400 ppm level has not been exceeded in over three million years. As we continue to burn fossil fuels we continue the steep upward trajectory of CO2 levels.
Isn’t there too much at stake to ignore the risk or call it a hoax? It’s like you’re about to put your kid on a flight to Seattle and the Alaska Airlines guy says, “We’ve got a potentially serious problem with the plane. Our best mechanics say we might crash, but we figure maybe they’re wrong or maybe we can fix it on the way.” Would you put your kid on that flight?
Our children and grandchildren may think us foolish for agonizing over the legacy of leaving them too many treasury notes to pay off while ignoring a much more life-threatening legacy – leaving them a planet that is much less able to sustain human civilization.
As Bill McKibbon, founder of 350.org, said of the 400 ppm milestone: “The only question now is whether the relentless rise in carbon can be matched by a relentless rise in the activism necessary to stop it.”