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Heading for a crash

September 10th, 2009 · 3 Comments

The world is at 390 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 and 430+ CO2 equivalent. The IPCC has concluded, in what might actually be an optimistic assessment, that we can limit temperature growth to 2 degrees if we cap CO2 levels at 450 ppm. That is, limiting to 450 ppm would give us a 50% chance, in that optimistic assessments, of limiting ourselves to simply having a serious (rather than utterly fatal) crash (see graphic above).

In fact, that IPCC assessment is (again) almost certainly optimistic.

There is a growing consensus (group of understanding) that our target should not be 450 parts per million (ppm), but 350 ppm. In other words, we don’t need to just slow emissions growth and flatten overall carbon levels, but actually have as our target and objective figuring out how to move from a carbon emitting to a carbon neutral to a carbon negative future. And, we need to be doing so on all cylinders, with all approaches (energy efficiency, clean energy, changed social practices/norms, improved agricultural practices, etc …) available to us (and to the U.S.).

Right now, we are continuing to accelerate the car into the wall. Every moment that passes increases the inevitable damage and increases the risk of unsustainable damage to the planetary systems’ ability to support advance human civilization.

Graphic courtesy of Climate Place.

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Tags: carbon dioxide · cartoon · catastrophic climate change · climate change · emissions · Global Warming

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Offsetting problems … // Sep 10, 2009 at 10:02 am

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  • 2 paulina // Sep 10, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Overall this is effective and powerful I think.

    For those who care even more about the numbers and details, though, note that the MIT study underlying some of the numbers at Climate Place ironically *understates* the problem.

    The warming limit “everyone” (except the MIT policy gamble people) is talking about is 2 degrees Celsius increase “above the pre-industrial.”

    Which means that the “warning sign” in the Climate Place graphs needs to come well below a 2 degree increase above the 2000 (or 1990) temperature shown, since by 2000 (or 1990) we already had plenty of increase above the pre-industrial.

    This is one simple reason we need a common language for these kinds of numbers.

    For the MIT thing, see:

  • 3 Tweets that mention Heading for a crash -- // Sep 10, 2009 at 2:11 pm

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