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January 11, 2008

Is 350ppm of Carbon Dioxide the "Tipping Point"

Last month was big regarding the fight against Global Warming. Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. finally made some commitments at the summit in Bali, and Congress felt the pressure and went against big business and raised the gas mileage standard for cars.

But perhaps the biggest single event was when NASA scientist James Hansen proclaimed that the new tipping point for our planet is 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. All other rhetoric pales in comparison to this finding. Why this is so important is that 20 years ago Hansen testified to congress that the planet was warming and that people were the cause. In the 60's (post the industrial revolution) the concentration of CO2 was roughly 275ppm. So most all focus was on what would happen to the planet if that number doubled to 550ppm. So 550ppm became what all studies were based on and the scientific community drew the line there. DO NOT EXCEED 550ppm.

A funny thing happened on the way to 550ppm. We're at roughly 383ppm and the planet has started to change. We're seeing the polar ice caps meting at an alarming rate. That rapid meltdown caused most scientists to lower the tipping point to 450ppm a few years back (better safe than sorry). Hansen now quotes "the evidence indicates that we've aimed too high - that the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is 350ppm". A stunner to the scientific community - 350ppm. We're already at 383ppm so what now? Well, just like most issues it has to get a little worse before it gets better - and it is.

The issue now is all about reduction of CO2 not about doom and gloom. It's about weaning ourselves from coal, gas and oil (fossil fuels). I can't see how government glad handing and international summits where other issues are really driving the agenda will get it done. How about banning coal fired power plants that do not capture carbon emissions? How about a carbon tax on fossil fuels that are being extracted from the earth?  How about taxing industries that produce too much carbon at our expense? Or, not fond of taxing, how about rewarding those that go green? That buy renewable energy, that find ways to conserve, that produce renewable energy. This is a zero sum game and right now the earth is on the short end of the stick - but it's not too late.

January 11, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink

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Comments

Thank you for this. I just found out about the 350ppm number and am blogging on it and trying to spread it as fast as I can.

Posted by: Tim Morton | Dec 16, 2008 1:30:21 AM

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