Readers of this site will have noticed a new bit of information at the upper left, in Item A1. It is the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), as measured at the Keeling observatory in Mauna Loa, Hawaii. Today’s reading is 396.59 parts per million. That means that 0.04 percent—two-fiftieths—of the atmosphere is CO2. Doesn’t sound like much. But it’s far higher than it has been at any time in the last 800,000 years. And according to climate scientists, it’s why the planet is warming. And it’s not good news.
Why is it not good news? Because the global concentration of CO2, already higher than it has been in the last 800,000 years, is growing faster than it has at any time in human history. Models of the thermal effect of the extra CO2 in the atmosphere predict that a 450 ppm level will produce an average temperature rise of 2° Celsius. We’re on track to hit 450 ppm in twenty years.
Past, present and future CO2 emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification. The laws of physics are non-negotiable. We are running out of time.—Michele Jarraud, secretary-general World Meteorological Organization
The World Meteorological Organization recently announced that the past two years have seen the biggest increase in CO2 concentrations since people began measuring the concentrations. Reuters quotes WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud as saying
The world has the knowledge and tools to keep global warming within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), a U.N. goal set in 2010.
Mr. Jarraud is right. We do have the tools. He was perhaps referring to his native France’s big fleet of nuclear reactors, which make most of France’s electricity. French electricity, kilowatt-hour for kilowatt-hour, is five times cleaner and half as expensive as the electricity in neighboring Germany. A kilowatt-hour of French electricity comes with roughly 77 grams of CO2 and costs roughly 17 cents at the household level; a kWh of German electricity with 477 grams and costs 33 cents.
Mr. Jarraud also is quoted as having said this:
Pleading ignorance can no longer be an excuse for not acting.
He is absolutely right. We know how to run a modern advanced society with no carbon. France makes most of its electricity right this minute with a known, proven technology. My home province of Ontario also does: right this minute, nuclear reactors, Canadian-designed and -made, are making more than 65 percent of the electricity that is running my computer (see Table A1 on the left).
We here in Ontario have been endlessly debating whether to build new nuclear reactors at the Darlington site. We should take Mr. Jarraud’s words to heart. We should take the decision to build new reactors. And we should start now. It’s our responsibility to the planet.