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NEWS: Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now tops 400 ppm

The BBC reports, “Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have broken through a symbolic mark. Daily measurements of CO2 at a US government agency lab on Hawaii have topped 400 parts per million for the first time. …Carbon dioxide is regarded as the most important of the manmade greenhouse gases blamed for raising the temperature on the planet over recent decades. Human sources come principally from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.”

“(While the number is) expected to decline by a few ppm below 400 in the coming weeks … the long-term trend is upwards. …James Butler is responsible for the Earth System Research Laboratory, a facility on Mauna Loa belonging to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). …(Butler says), ‘Probably next year, or the year after that, the average yearly reading will pass 400pm. A couple of years after that, the South Pole will have readings of 400ppm, and in eight to nine years we will probably have seen the last CO2 reading under 400ppm.'”

In October 2009, Council of Canadians energy campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue wrote about the imperative of the 350 parts per million target. She wrote, “350ppm is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide …350 ppm is the number humanity needs to get back to as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change.”

When we were in Bolivia in April 2010, I wrote in a blog, “Right now, the tar sands account for 5 per cent of Canada’s emissions… By 2020, it is predicted that the tar sands will grow to account for 12 per cent of our national emissions. …In parts-per-million language, the full exploitation of the tar sands and the U.S. tar shale reserves could increase atmospheric carbon by 49 to 65 ppm.”

In a blog Andrea wrote in January 2011 after a panel presentation in Toronto, she commented, “Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu of JustEarth and the Toronto Climate Campaign pulled no punches… Given how far we have already progressed in terms of emissions and how tied our economies are to fossil fuels, Adriana argued that stabilizing to 350 ppm would require massive change. The studies and modelling she referred to indicates that fossil fuels would need to be phased out in about a decade. Given that fossil fuels is the lifeblood of our economy – they heat our homes, fuel our cars and are in about everything we consume – this is no short order.”

Clearly the expansion of the tar sands, pipelines to the west, south and east, and the proliferation of fracking around the world is putting humanity on a crash course with the limits of this planet’s ecosystem. The imperative of climate justice continues to be ignored by the ‘leaders’ of the world.