(Picture Source: Wikipedia Commons)
The Guardian newspaper held an interesting article this week (John Vidal, Tuesday 28th April 2009) regarding the extent of Carbon Dioxide which has been detected at the Zeppelin research station at the Arctic Circle. The latest evidence from this site suggests that CO₂ in the atmosphere has reached a peak level. The figure given in the article is that the figure recorded in the atmosphere last week was 397 parts per million (this method of measurement means that 397 parts of every million molecules in the atmosphere are CO₂ – the pre-industrial level is recorded as being 280 ppm). According to scientists, this is a record high. The levels tend to fluctuate, and the amount recorded subsequently on Monday dropped back to 393.7 ppm. Although the levels at Svalbard (where the station is located) tend to be above the global average, this is apparently unprecedented.
According to Professor Johan Strom (from the Norwegian Polar Institute) this is the highest it has been for 50 million years – which is slightly disturbing to say in the least! He is quoted in the article as stating that the level is not a problem, as the earth can adapt (I’m thinking James Lovelock again here!) What is worrying is the rate of increase, which is apparently increasing 2-3 ppm per year. As a result, the rate is much faster than it was 10 to 20 years ago. Levels in the Arctic region are higher because of increased landmass and the proximity of human activity in the northern hemisphere. Climate scientists apparently warn that any increase of CO₂ levels above 450 ppm CO₂ equivalent (a measure which incorporates other greenhouse gases) could lead to a rise of 2˚C above the pre-industrial global average temperature.
The article also reported that Al Gore was due to host a conference in Tromso, Norway, regarding the melting of Arctic ice, where he was expected to warn attending ministers from polar regions ‘that the Arctic ice cap may totally disappear in as little as five years if nothing is done to curb greenhouse emissions.’ (John Vidal, The Guardian). This is a disturbingly short period of time.
One thing which struck me is that Professor Strom suggested that even if we stopped this process now, we would still have to live with these effects for thousands of years – James Lovelocks’ positive feedback? However, as he points out, this is no reason to do nothing.
If you wish to read the article in full, follow this link: