As widely discussed, we the people of the planet have passed a dangerous and depressing milestone:
Heat-Trapping Gas Passes Milestone, Raising Fears
The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years.
Scientific instruments showed that the gas had reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.
The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.
“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.
Ralph Keeling, who runs another monitoring program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said a continuing rise could be catastrophic. “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds,” he said. …
“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University. …
Indirect measurements suggest that the last time the carbon dioxide level was this high was at least three million years ago, during an epoch called the Pliocene. Geological research shows that the climate then was far warmer than today, the world’s ice caps were smaller, and the sea level might have been as much as 60 or 80 feet higher. Experts fear that humanity may be precipitating a return to such conditions — except this time, billions of people are in harm’s way. …
This animation really gives a feel for the inexorably increase in levels over time.
Activists and scientists tired to draw a line in the sand at the safe level of CO2, see 350.org. They have set up a special page to mark the 400ppm milestone, calling for a “relentless rise in activism” to match the “relentless rise in carbon”. After Copenhagen I no longer think that’s going to happen. But if there is any hope at all it doesn’t rest with my greedy generation, it rests with the young, and the likes of Generation Zero.