Wednesday 14 March 2012

Look, up in the sky! It's carbon dioxide!

Just emerging now from under a heavy cold, but wanted to share some good and bad climate news I read in today's Sydney Morning Herald. 

Coal-fired power station anyone?
The bad news is, of course, that the climate is changing, and human beings are responsible for it – which is not exactly “news” unless you’ve been living under a large rock and/or listening to climate-change sceptics who pop up in the mainstream media in the name of "balance" now and then. This kind of balance is the kind that would make a journalist find someone who believes the earth is flat or that slavery should be reinstated, just to "balance" the views of the majority who believe otherwise.

The good news is that today the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology released their latest report on the state of the atmosphere and it’s more firm evidence that humans are changing the climate at an ever-faster rate.

The State of the Climate Report 2012, prepared by the CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and released today (14 March 2012) states unequivocally that:
  1. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are, at 390 parts per million, the highest they have been in 800,000 years
  2. Increases in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are caused by the burning of fossil fuels - climate scientists used a form of carbon dating, testing isotopes of carbon in CO2 particles to find their source
  3. Average daily and night-time temperatures in Australia are a degree higher now than a century ago
  4. Sea levels are rising by about 5mm a year off Sydney and the NSW coast and by up to 1cm a year in the tropics, places such as Darwin, due to thermal expansion (warmer sea temps forcing water molecules to expand and take up more space)
  5. Global sea levels are, on average, 21 centimetres higher today than they were in 1880, when reliable records began being kept.
But wait, there's more: CSIRO atmospheric scientist Dr Paul Fraser said the world is now on track to pass the 400 parts per million level for CO2 emissions in less than five years. You probably know that 350ppm is widely recognised as the tipping point for widespread, catastrophic climate change. So fasten your seatbelts everybody. 

Of course the other good news is that human beings are intelligent, inventive creatures and we can do something about this, to at least slow the effects of what we've done already. You can do it, I can do it, governments and corporations can do it. And while we wait for the big, systemic changes to be made, we can all drive less, walk and ride bikes more, switch to green energy, use less electricity...You know the drill. 

Read the full story and see a clip of Dr Fraser explaining the findings here.

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