Sunday, May 19, 2019

415 ppm Carbon Dioxide will kill us.


CO2 levels reached 415 parts per million in May 2019.  That's the highest levels humans have ever seen.  Read my op-ed in the Scranton times.  Read Pope Francis's Laudato Si.   Pray, and then act to save our planet.


You’re from Scranton and you have never heard of Charles Keeling? Don’t feel bad. I’ve lived here for almost 10 years and never heard of him, either.
You might have missed the recent news that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has climbed to 415 parts per million. Not knowing that could cost your grandchildren’s lives.
Keeling and CO² are both things about which you really want to know.
Scranton-born Keeling (1928-2005) was a geochemist. After getting a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, he went to work on how the Earth “breathes.” Trees, with all their leaves, and billions of plants take in CO² in sunlight and exhale oxygen.
When too much CO² is around, it overwhelms the green lungs of our planet. Unable to inhale it all, CO² builds up in the bubble of air surrounding Earth. Our planet begins to get warmer — and not in a comfortable way.
Scranton’s superb geochemist is credited with being the first to find ways to measure how much CO² is in the air. Figuring out how to know levels of CO² “is one of the great underappreciated scientific accomplishments of our time.” Most of the credit goes to Scranton’s Charles Keeling.
In the 1950s, it was well known that CO² molecules trapped heat. What Keeling proved was that carbon dioxide levels were rising, dangerously. Much of that increase is due to us. The main culprit is our burning of fossil fuels, which produces greenhouse gases that everyone has heard about in school science classes for the past 50 years.
James Hansen, of NASA, notes Keeling “altered our perspectives about the degree to which the Earth can absorb the human assault.”
Keeling measured CO² levels on Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. His son, Ralph, continues the work.
Which brings us to 415 ppm. Recently, CO² levels reached their highest point in millions of years. Humans have never lived on a planet with 415 ppm.
In 1900, we were at 300 ppm. Environmental expert Bill McKibben has been preaching for years that we need to get CO² down to 350 ppm. We were at 383 ppm in 2007. Instead of cutting back, we headed in the wrong direction. The hockey stick- shaped “Keeling curve” is not some talking head’s opinion on cable news. It is fact. It is truth. It means your grandchildren are going to suffer weather like never before unless we make major changes now.
A recent New York Times article, “Time to panic,” said a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen.”
Pope Francis, in Laudato Si, teaches about climate change and more. He appeals “for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”
Pope Francis offers challenge and consolation, healing and hope: “Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. … All is not lost. Human beings … are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start … and embarking on new paths to authentic freedom.”
In 1962, author and conservationist Rachel Carson asked in “Silent Spring,” “Have we fallen into a mesmerized state that makes us accept as inevitable that which is inferior or detrimental, as though having lost the will or the vision to demand that which is good?”
Let’s make America, and our world, good again. Check out and NASA’s website Learn about the fragile condition of planet Earth. Whether or not you like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old congresswoman from Queens, she’s right about the fact that we don’t have much time to stop disaster.
This isn’t rocket science. It’s Earth science. And we need to learn it and get it right. Or we, or our children and grandchildren, are going to die. If Earth is not fit for human habitation, it is over.

It’s a reality: No people-friendly planet, no people.

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