Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

April 2012 CO2 Concentrations: 396.18ppm


The Scripps Institution of Oceanography measured an average of 396.18ppm CO2 concentration at their Mauna Loa, Hawai’i’s Observatory during April 2012.

396.18ppm is the highest value for Aprilconcentrations in recorded history. Last year’s 393.28ppm was the previous highest value ever recorded.  This April’s reading is 2.90ppm higher than last year’s.  This increase is very significant.  Of course, more significant is the unending trend toward higher concentrations with time, no matter the month or specific year-over-year value.

The yearly maximum monthly value normally occurs during May. Last year was no different: the 394.34 concentration was the highest value reported last year and, prior to the past two months, all time.  If we extrapolate last year’s value out in time, it will only be 3 years until Scripps reports 400ppm average concentration for a singular month (likely May 2015).

Judging by the year-over-year increases seen per month in the past 10 years, I predict 2012 will not see a monthly concentration below 390ppm.  Last year, I predicted that 2011′s minimum would be ~388ppm.  I overestimated the minimum somewhat since both September’s and October’s measured concentrations were just under 389ppm.  So far into 2012, my prediction is holding up.

CO2Now has the following graph on their front page:

It shows concentrations in the Scripps dataset going back to 1958.  As I wrote above, concentrations are persistently and inexorably moving upward.

Given our historical emissions to date and the likelihood that they will continue to grow at an increasing rate in the next 25 years, we will pass a number of “safe” thresholds – for all intents and purposes permanently as far as concerns our species.  It is time to start seriously investigating and discussing what kind of world will exist after CO2 concentrations peak at 850 and 1100ppm.  I don’t believe the IPCC or any other relevant body has done this to date.  To remain relevant, I think the IPCC will have to do so moving forward.

Additionally, efforts to pin any future concentration goal to a number like 350ppm or even 450ppm will be insanely difficult: 350ppm more so than 450ppm.  Beyond an education tool, I don’t see the utility in using 350ppm – we simply will not achieve it, or anything close to it, given our history and likelihood that economic growth goals will trump any effort to address CO2 concentrations.


5 thoughts on “April 2012 CO2 Concentrations: 396.18ppm

  1. That final paragraph is the killer blow and, unfortunately, I think you are absolutely right.

    Your comments regarding the IPCC are also spot-on. I think an awful lot of people are now expecting them to produce a radically-different kind of report next year. However, given the extent to which governments neuter their reports, what real chance is there that the IPCC might actually publish something that correctly states the nature, scale and urgency of the problem we are not dealing with?

    • Martin-
      Well said. As I’ve alluded to in some posts within the past 9 months, I’ve altered my views on climate change action and the IPCC in particular. I have yet to flesh those views out in the blog, but that’s coming. The IPCC is too large and burdensome to effect actual mitigative change. As I’ve blogged about climate change and efforts on both sides of the issue over the years, I’ve become convinced we’re in for quite a bit of warming. How much, as it always has, depends on when we decide to take action – but that’s not coming any time soon. The skeptics have simply won too many battles and delayed action for too long. How we respond adaptively will become as important as when we decide to start mitigation.

      Again, more to come. Hope to hear more from you in the future!

      • I remain hopeful that the combination of Obama ending his silence on climate change (in response to opinion polls indicating a clear majority in favour of action) and the own goals scored by the Heartland Institute (HI) recently… will be a game-changer… At very least it would seem that the HI has hopefully been financially holed below the water line and will now sink.

  2. Pingback: Climate change hard to deny with hottest year on record — Transition Voice

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