CO2 levels in the atmosphere keep rising
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The concentration levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere broke another record as it reached the highest level in 800,000 years during 2016. Last year, the atmosphere averaged a concentration of 403.3 parts per million, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
The abrupt changes in the atmosphere witnessed in the past 70 years are without precedent. Concentrations of carbon dioxide are now 145 percent higher than of pre-industrial levels (before 1750) according to the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
Population growth intensified agricultural practices, increases in land use and deforestation, industrialization and associated energy use from fossil fuel sources have all contributed to increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the industrial era, beginning in 1750.
The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3 million to 5 million years ago, the temperature was 2 degrees to 3 degrees Celsius warmer and sea-level was 10 meters to 20 meters higher than now.
“Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “Future generations will inherit a much more inhospitable planet,” he said.
“CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the oceans for even longer. The laws of physics mean that we face a much hotter, more extreme climate in the future.”
As if that report wasn’t concerning enough, last week the Government Accountability Office released a new report on the economic impact climate change is having on the country and the increasing economic strain it will add in the future. The report was requested by Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
One of the main findings of the report concludes that the rescinding of an Obama-era requirement for federal agencies to work together to prepare for the challenges of climate change, has left agencies with no set plan and no indication that there will be one anytime soon.
The GAO report, citing federal research, found that extreme weather events including floods, droughts, and wildfires will become more frequent and intensive if effects of climate change go unmitigated and warn that the less it’s done to prepare, the harder it will hit the country economically.
The report found climate change added more than $350 billion in costs for taxpayers in the past decade as it dealt with disaster relief, crop and flood insurance, firefighting costs, repairs needed for infrastructure and public lands. The report estimated that those costs will increase anywhere from $12 billion to $35 billion each year by the middle of the century.
What’s the answer?
As concerning as these reports, which were made public within a week of each other, President Trump’s administration will continue to move forward continuing to favor the fossil fuel industry.
Last week, the Department of the Interior announced it will have the largest oil and gas lease sale ever in the United States. The federal government is planning on issuing leases to oil and gas industry for 76,967,935 acres in federal waters off the Gulf of Mexico, offshore Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The proposed region-wide lease sale will offer an area about the size of New Mexico to the industry in March which includes all available unleased areas on the Gulf’s Outer Continental Shelf.