CO2 levels just reached 410 ppm – the highest in millions of years

April 24, 2017 by  
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Remember when carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere hit a terrifying 400 parts per million (ppm)? That’s number’s old news now – concentrations just reached 410 ppm for the first time in millions of years. Last week, researchers at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded the record-breaking level, and scientists warn the rate of increase will only slow when we reduce our carbon emissions . Mauna Loa Observatory scientists just recorded the first CO2 level above 410 ppm since they began recording in 1958. Back then, the first atmospheric CO2 concentration was a mere 313 ppm . In 2013 concentrations hit 400 ppm . Last week’s reading was 410.28 ppm. Related: CO2 levels likely to stay above 400 ppm for the rest of our lives, new study shows University of Southampton professor of isotope geochemistry Gavin Foster told Climate Central, “It’s pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled. These milestones are just numbers, but they give us an opportunity to pause and take stock and act as useful yard sticks for comparisons to the geological record.” The United Kingdom Met Office put out a CO2 forecast for the first time ever earlier in 2017, and it turned out to be pretty close to reality; they predicted CO2 concentrations could breach 410 ppm in March but very likely would by April. El Niño is partly at fault for spiking levels of CO2, but more than natural factors, humans burning fossil fuels are to blame. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) atmospheric scientist Pieter Tans said, “The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease. But carbon dioxide will still be going up, albeit more slowly. Only when emissions are cut in half will atmospheric carbon dioxide level off initially.” In a March NOAA article , Tans said the rate of CO2 growth over the last 10 years is 100 to 200 times quicker than the rate Earth saw as it transitioned out of the Ice Age, saying “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.” Via Climate Central Images via Flickr , Flickr  and Wikimedia Commons

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CO2 levels just reached 410 ppm – the highest in millions of years

Earth’s climate hurtling towards warmth unprecedented in nearly half a billion years

April 5, 2017 by  
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Climate change is already altering the planet, but the warmth we’re headed for may be greater than anything Earth has experienced in around half a billion years. Three scientists collaborated on a study and penned an article for The Conversation, in which they find Earth could see carbon dioxide (CO2) values not seen since the Eocene Epoch. Carbon concentrations today that match previous high CO2 periods could lead to worse warming . Today’s CO2 concentrations may lead to more warming because the sun has also been getting stronger, according to the University of Southampton’s Gavin Foster, Wesleyan University’s Dana Royer, and the University of Bristol’s Dan Lunt. They explain Earth’s temperature isn’t simply a result of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere; the sun plays a role as well. They write, “…due to the way the sun generates energy through nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium, its brightness has increased over time. Four and half billion years ago when the Earth was young the sun was around 30 percent less bright.” Related: Ancient marine fossils in the Transantarctic Mountains offer disturbing clues about climate change The scientists point out 1 degree Celsius warming hasn’t been too unusual in terms of geological time. They said the planet has been warmer than it is today for much of Earth’s past. During the last greenhouse state in the Eocene, temperatures on Earth were 10 to 15 degrees Celsius hotter than today. There was no ice in the polar regions and palm trees thrived on Antarctica’s coast then, according to the scientists. But Earth today is technically in an icehouse state – or a time when both poles have ice – even though warming is happening. In the past when the sun got stronger, atmospheric CO2 decreased, in contrast to today, according to the scientists. They wrote, “We found no past time period when the drivers of climate , or climate forcing, was as high as it will be in the future if we burn all the readily available fossil fuel . Nothing like it has been recorded in the rock record for at least 420 million years.” The journal Nature Communications published the three scientists’ research online yesterday. Via The Conversation Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Earth’s climate hurtling towards warmth unprecedented in nearly half a billion years

This German village generates 500% more energy than it needs

April 5, 2017 by  
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Wildpoldsried , a Bavarian village of about 2,600 residents, is leading the way in Germany’s extraordinary renewable energy transformation . Over the past 18 years, the village has invested in a holistic range of renewable energy projects that include 4,983 kWp of photovoltaics , five biogas facilities, 11 wind turbines and a hydropower system. As a result, the village has gone beyond energy independence – and it now produces 500% more energy than it needs and profits from sales of the surplus power back to the grid. Renewable energy projects in Germany have gained enormous traction in recent years, propelled by government subsidies that are designed to lower costs, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and move the nation entirely away from nuclear power; this transformation is known as the Energiewende . As a result, Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable sources—that’s twice as much as U.S. households receive. On a local level, Wildpoldsried has far exceeded the successes seen across Germany. The villages’s commitment to renewable energy began in 1999, when the city council crafted a document titled “Wildpoldsried Innovativ Richtungsweisend” (WIR-2020, or Wildpoldsried Innovative Leadership). The document looked at how the town might encourage growth and invest in new community facilities without incurring debt. As Biocycle explains, the WIR-2020 contained three main areas of focus: “1) Renewable Energy and Saving Energy; 2) Ecological Construction of Buildings Using Ecological Building Materials (mainly wood-based); and 3) Protection of Water and Water Resources (both above and below ground) and Ecological Disposal of Wastewater.” Related: Renewables Recently Provided 74% of Germany’s Energy Demand Through these three areas of focus, Wildpoldsried sought to produce 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. But in a relatively small, engaged community where, as one resident explained , there is a notion of “thriftiness… I don’t need to buy what I can make,” the projects advanced much faster than anyone might have expected. By 2011, the village was producing 321 percent of the electricity it needed, and was receiving $5.7 million in payments for the surplus. The entire list of Wildpoldsreid’s projects is pretty remarkable: in addition to the five biogas plants, 4,983 kWp of photovoltaics, 11 wind turbines and the hydropower system, the town is also home to several municipal and residential biomass heating systems and 2,100 m² of solar thermal systems. Five private residences are heated by geothermal systems and passivhaus techniques have been used in some new construction. One is also likely to see a fair number of electric cars dotting about. Related: German State to Receive 100% Renewable Power This Year With such a diversity of renewable energy sources, the town operates a smart grid that, as Siemens explains “maintains the balance between energy production and consumption and keeps the power grid stable.” As Windpoldsreid’s Deputy Mayor, Günter Mögele, explained to the Financial Times : “I think people were surprised that the Energiewende is happening so fast,” and certainly it is not without it’s headaches for those looking at the issue on a national level. But Windpoldsried is a spectacular example of what can happen on a local level when residents and municipalities take matters into their own hands. + Windspoldried Lead image via Shutterstock

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This German village generates 500% more energy than it needs

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