Sunday, May 12, 2019

Global CO2 Passes 410 ppm in February 2019

On May 6th, NOAA ESRL reported that our world reached a global atmospheric CO2 concentration over 410 ppmv. This is not the Mauna Loa mean, which often substitutes for the actual global indicator, but the preliminary result of the Global Greenhouse Gas Network, and reflects the real mean of the world-wide reporting network.

The longer NOAA ESRL trend demonstrates the accelerating achievement of each new 10 ppm increase. 

If this 410 ppm mean holds through future updates, we will have increased the global CO2 concentration by 10 ppm in 47 months - less than four years. More on that sobering significance later.

Compared to 2018, global CO2 increased by 2.64 ppm, partially due to increased emissions, and perhaps influenced by the mild El Nino or other feedbacks. 

Furthermore, we have increased CO2 by 12.85 ppm in the last five years. 

Over the last 10 years, comparing February 2019 to 2009, the carbon dioxide concentration has increased 23.35 ppm, a new record acceleration - not just for the last 10 years - but the last 800,000 years. It has never happened before in human history or the natural environment. This is not normal.

It is deeply troubling that we have increased our global CO2 concentration by 70 ppm in 39 years. How troubling becomes obvious as we review the trend. 

Here is how long it has taken us to reach each 10 ppm milestone in the NOAA ESRL data. 

In May, 1960 we hit 320 ppm as a monthly mean for the first time at Mauna Loa (MLO). Here is how many months/years it took to reach each 10 ppm increase after that date. In the table (Glbl) is the NOAA ESRL Global Greenhouse Gas Network monthly mean.

Site       CO2 ppm Date          Months    Years
MLO 320 ppm May-60
MLO 330 ppm May-72          144 12.00
Glbl 340 ppm May-80             96 8.00
Glbl 350 ppm May-87            84 7.00
Glbl 360 ppm Jan-95            92 7.67
Glbl 370 ppm Apr-00            63 5.25
Glbl 380 ppm Apr-05            60 5.00
Glbl 390 ppm Dec-10            68 5.67
Glbl 400 ppm Mar-2015           51 4.25
Glbl 410 ppm Feb-2019           47 3.92

Here is the graphic, which depicts how quickly we are increasing the concentration rate in 10 ppm increments:
This slash in the rate increase is gut wrenching - a bad roller coaster going only one direction. It is worse than it looks when we add in the ice core data. That helps us have a full picture of the global CO2 rate of change through millennia. 

The ice core data used here is from the EPA, Vostock, EPICA and Law Dome records found at:

Let's just examine the last interglacial cycle from 15615 BCE (the last time we were approximately at 190 ppm (and in an ice age), to the present 410 ppm. The graphic below depicts how many years it took to add the next 10 ppm to the global CO2 concentration. 

For example, to increase from 190 ppm in 15615 BCE to 200 ppm it took 896 years, till 14709 BCE. It took 586 years to reach 210 ppm, and another 503 to reach 220 ppm. 

There is significant variability after this point. It took 5,923 years increase from 250-260 ppm, and 4,204 years to increase from 270-280 ppm. 

However in 1780, when we reached 280 ppm, it was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution - the human use of fossil fuels. It took till 1880, just 100 years, to reach 290 ppm. Humans then turbo-charged 10 ppm increases from millennia to decades and less - in less than a century. 

What we have done in the last 60 years practically causes heart palpitations when you think of the coming changes this CO2 increase will cause to the environment - and for human civilization.

Ponder this. The 3.9 years to go from 400 to 410 ppm is .00065 of the 5,923 years it took to go from 250 to 260 ppm. Or .00093 of the 4,204 years to go from 270-280 ppm. if it makes one feel better, It is 3.9 percent of the time to go from 280 to 290 ppm, from 1780 to 1880.

There is another traumatic perspective of we have inflicted on the global climate system and humanity - the adding of 70 ppm CO2 in the last 39 years. 

Let's compare that increase, from 340 to 410 ppm, to every other 70 ppm change since the past ice age, in increments of 10 ppm. In other words, how many years did it take for the same 70 ppm change, for example, from 190 to 260 ppm? At 190 ppm we were in an ice age and at 260 - we were not. 

Here is every 70 ppm change in 10 ppm incremental steps. It is obvious that human generated CO2 emissions are short circuiting natural processes. 

In conclusion, here are three things to ponder from the above graph.
  • The change from 210 to 280 ppm (emerging from the last ice age to beginning of the Industrial Revolution) took 15,900 years.
  • The change from 280 ppm to 350 ppm (reached in 1987, when the international community and energy industry unequivocally knew that emissions were going to cause a problem for human society) took only 202 years.
  • The last 60 ppm increase (350 to 410 ppm) has only taken 32 years. This has never happened in 800,000 years. In fact, in the ice core data there is no record of a 10 ppm increase in 39 years - until human emissions impacts in the 1900's.
Global CO2 concentrations have never increased by 10 ppm in 47 months. There is no comparison in 800,000 years of ice core data. Nothing in paleo-climate proxies. Only in models with polynomial, or exponential, curves.

We are in uncharted "terror incognita" (pun intended).

Imagine what the next increment looks like. Imagine if we do not accelerate efforts to quickly drop emissions. ACDC comes to mind....

"No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody's gonna slow me down...." 

We're on a Highway to Hell.