Atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa hits 415 ppm as NZ waits for Government action

The carbon dioxide data measured as the mole fraction in dry air, on Mauna Loa constitute the longest record of direct measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere. They were started in March of 1958 at a facility of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The average readings reached 400 ppm in 2015 and have continued to trend upwards.

Mauna Loa CO2

Mauna Loa — Carbon Dioxide levels reach 400 ppm, a danger sign to scientists

Global concentration of CO2 in the air — the primary cause of global warming — has been increasing in recent years at record amounts, and it has now reached a level unprecedented in more than two million years. In March 2015, for the first time the average of all of NOAA’s 40 CO2 measuring sites showed a concentration above 400 parts per million (ppm). This follows the individual observatory high points of 400 ppm in the spring of 2012 at the Barrow, Alaska, observatory, and the April 2013 high of 400 as measured by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and NOAA on the upper flanks of the Mauna Loa volcano, Hawaii. In 2015 Mauna Loa is running consistently above 400 ppm month after month.

This is a concentration never before reached in modern measurements. It is measurably the highest concentration of CO2 for more than 800,000 years and probably the highest in several million years. Levels in the atmosphere result from natural and human emissions, but human emissions far exceed natural ones, such as from volcanoes. The concentration in the air varies through the year, because the oceans and the earth’s plant life absorb carbon dioxide at varying rates. CO2 is responsible for 63 percent of the warming attributable to all greenhouse gases, and many scientists have recommended the world should act to keep the CO2 levels below 400-450 ppm in order to prevent even more irreversible and disastrous climate change effects.

Hawaii is remote from major direct human emissions, but is an active volcanic zone.

from New Zealand’s Climate Cghange Minister last month: Rising greenhouse gas emissions show the need for action on climate change

New Zealand’s latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory shows emissions are on the rise, underscoring why the Government is taking action on climate change.

The Inventory shows New Zealand’s gross emissions increased 2.2 per cent between 2016 and 2017, and have increased by 23.1 per cent between 1990 and 2017.

“That shows why we need the kind of clear policies and actions the Government’s proposing on climate change,” Minister for Climate Change James Shaw said.

“New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions need to start coming down and we will see that happen over time with the Government’s list of action on climate change, which also includes:

  • the ban on future off-shore oil and gas exploration,
  • $100 million start-up funding that’s established New Zealand Green Investment Finance Limited,
  • $20 million a year invested in reducing agricultural emissions,
  • transitioning the government fleet to electric vehicles
  • $14 billion dollars into public transport, cycle-ways and walk-ways.”

They seem relatively minor and hardly game changing (the offshore exploration ban may increase emissions in the medium term as dirtier energy is used). Major Government announcements on climate change have been delayed.

Stuff: Methane emissions deal kick starts climate change legislation

The government is close to announcing a deal on its contentious climate change legislation, striking a deal over agricultural emissions.

Stuff understands Climate Change Minister James Shaw and NZ First have negotiated a “split gas” target, which would see methane treated differently from other long-lived gases, like carbon.

It comes as Shaw took delivery on Tuesday of two reports – on agriculture and on transitioning to 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2035 – from the Interim Climate Change Committee (ICCC).

But instead of immediately releasing them publicly, as expected, the reports will be held back until the Government decides how to respond.

Shaw said: “We have delayed release of reports to give Government time to consider the reports so that when they are released for public consultation people will have a clear idea of the Government’s thinking around the recommendations.

That seems to be standard practice from this Government – holding back reports until they decide what to do. Or until they work out their PR approach.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, New Zealand agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Scientists have long argued delays and inaction will increase costs and reduce chances of limiting temperature increase.

One report recently says New Zealand’s climate change policy too reliant on tree planting

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has released a heavy hitting report that says New Zealand is too reliant on forest offsets, calling it a “risky” short term fix to climate change challenges.

However, despite calling the report “thought-provoking”, the Government said it is “committed to retaining the use of forestry off-sets for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions”.

We are waiting to find out if this Government is tweaking or transformative on climate change.

CO₂ emissions per country

Rich countries tend to have significantly higher the CO₂ emissions per population.

Hannah Ritchie (Our World in Data): Who emits more than their share of CO₂ emissions?

In a recent article I explored how different income groups and world regions compared in terms of their share of the global population and versus carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

From this, two key questions from readers emerged:

  • How does this comparison look at the national level; and
  • How does this look when we correct for emissions embedded in trade, so that we are comparing the emissions caused by a country’s consumption rather than production?

Which countries emit more than their ‘share’ of emissions?

In a completely equal world, each country’s share of the world’s COemissions would be equal to its share of the global population. This is not reality. In my previous post I explored how this looked at regional and income group levels. But how do individual countries fare in this comparison?

In the chart below I have plotted each country’s share of global CO2 emissions (on the y-axis) versus its share of the global population (on the x-axis) Note that this is based on production-based (territorial) emissions.

There are a few interesting findings which emerge:

  • All countries in the high-income group emit more than their population share;
  • All low-income groups emit less than their population share;
  • Most lower-middle income countries emit less than their population share; and upper-middle income countries are mixed;
  • The USA emits more than three-times its population share;
  • China emits significantly more than its population share (29 percent of emissions vs. 19 percent of population);
  • India emits significantly less than its share (7 percent of emissions vs. 18 percent of population);
  • Brazil emits just over half of its population share (2.8 percent of emissions vs. 1.5 percent of population).

A more simplified way to determine whether countries over- or under-emit CO2 emissions relative to their population share is to compare per capita emissions with the global average.

I have mapped below which countries have average per capita emissions above or below the global average. Countries in red have per capita emissions above global ‘equity’ (meaning they emit more than their population share); those in blue are below the global average. Here we see that most of those above global equity are across North America, Eurasia, and Oceania. The surprising result for many is that in Europe, Sweden and Switzerland emit less than the global average.

New Zealand is above average. Some comparisons (tonnes CO2 per capita):

  • New Zealand 7.81
  • Saudi Arabia 19.77
  • Australia 16.91
  • USA 16.86
  • Canada 15.85
  • Russia 11.59
  • Germany 9.7
  • Japan 9.64
  • Libya 9.51
  • Iran 8.9
  • South Africa 8.39
  • Poland 8.18
  • China 7.4
  • United Kingdom 6.38
  • Spain 5.85
  • France 5.05
  • Ukraine 4.94
  • Turkey 4.9
  • Indonesia 1.82
  • India 1.77
  • Afghanistan 0.31

Growing support for New Zealand’s ‘Zero Carbon’ goal

New Zealand is seriously working towards dealing with reducing carbon emissions.

As James Shaw has been touring the country consulting on his ambitions for getting New Zealand to ‘Carbon Zero’ (net emissions) by 2050, support for the goal in principle at least is growing, with both National leader Simon Bridges and farming leaders committing to work with the government towards achieving some sort of goal.

Bridges last month Speech to Fieldays on climate change. And:

Three days ago (Stuff): Farmers on zero carbon: let’s do this

In a symbolic show of unity, the Farming Leaders Group has published to joint editorial statement with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, published today by Stuff.

While the piece is described the zero carbon initiative as “a very ambitious and challenging target” and said questions remained about what it meant for food production, it makes commits to working to achieving the goal.

“Today, farming leaders with the support of the Government are stating their support for this goal and the agri-food sector playing its part in achieving it,” it reads.

“The farming sector and Government are committed to working together to achieve net zero emissions from agri-food production by 2050.”

While the Farming Leaders Group is new and describes itself as “informal”, its members are luminaries of the sector, including the leaders of Federated Farmers, Dairy NZ, Beef and Lamb, the Meat Industry Association, the Fonterra Shareholders Council and Irrigation NZ.

It also has representation from major private companies, the Federation of Maori Authorities and Agriculture Trade Envoy Mike Petersen.

Today from Stuff: What is the NZ Government’s Zero Carbon Bill and will it do anything?

New Zealand politicians have a complicated history with climate change.

There has been little in the way of US-style denialism, but the debate on what to do about it has been just as fiery.

That debate has led to a series of arguable half-measures – like an Emissions Trading Scheme that omits our largest emitter – and no certainty for the country on what we are going to do to reach the far-off targets we have signed up to.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw is trying to fix all this and depoliticise the issue  so that, long after his Government is gone, parties from the Left and Right can continue efforts to fight climate change without it becoming a political football. He wants to do that by setting up a completely new legal and institutional framework for climate policy, with a Zero Carbon Act and an independent Climate Change Commission. Here’s what that would actually mean.

What exactly is a Zero Carbon Act?

At its most simple, a Zero Carbon Act would set greenhouse gas emissions targets into law.

Greenhouse gases are the primary cause of human-influenced climate change. Long-lived gases like carbon dioxide are the big ones globally, but down here in New Zealand we also have to worry about short-lived gases like methane from cows.

The argument goes that actually setting these targets into real law will give businesses certainty about the direction of the country, so they can plan long-ahead without having to worry about a new government changing the rulebook from under them.

But it is complicated, politically, economically and environmentally.

This is an ambitious long term goal and it will take a lot of work top get all significant players on board and on track.

 

 

Highest recorded level of CO2 in May

According to Climate Central carbon dioxide peaked at 409.65 ppm in May, the highest recorded and higher than research indicates there has been in human history.

However the current estimate Earth’s CO2 Home Page is 408.84, still very high, and an increase on last year (406.81).

kc-monthly-0600

NASA:  The relentless rise of carbon dioxide

CO2Trends

If fossil-fuel burning continues at a business-as-usual rate, such that humanity exhausts the reserves over the next few centuries, CO2 will continue to rise to levels of order of 1500 ppm. The atmosphere would then not return to pre-industrial levels even tens of thousands of years into the future. This graph not only conveys the scientific measurements, but it also underscores the fact that humans have a great capacity to change the climate and planet.

NASA: Evidence

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.