To kick off 2015, carbon concentration in our planet’s atmosphere spikes above 400 ppm, again: is this the permanent end of the 300s?

The concentration of CO2 in the global atmosphere first went above 400 parts per million in April 2014. That was the first time in human history that the concentration went so high. Those who have followed this number, which is displayed here in Item A1 to the left, then watched it dip in the subsequent months below 400 and drop down to just above 394 ppm; that was in early September. It dropped through the northern hemisphere summer because northern hemisphere trees and other photosynthesizing plants were eating so much CO2—summer is, literally, their time in the sun. Well, summer ended more than three months ago, and the northern hemisphere just experienced the winter solstice. The plant growing season is long over. And the CO2 concentration just today went above 400 ppm again. I’m worried that it’s probably going to stay there.

Readings of the air in Hawaii, taken in April of 2014 from this observatory, showed CO2 concentrations above 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. Today’s reading also was greater than 400 ppm.

Readings of the air in Hawaii, taken in April of 2014 from this observatory, showed CO2 concentrations above 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. Today’s reading also was greater than 400 ppm.

An nuclear plant in the U.S., the famous and ill-starred Vermont Yankee, has just come permanently out of service. It has ended its life as a provider of electricity to the northeast. It ran since the 1970s, mostly as a baseload—twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, often for hundreds of days at a time—provider. Its 600 megawatts of output came with no CO2 at all. Those 600 MW will now likely be replaced with natural-gas, i.e., methane, fired generators. You can read about the effort to keep this just-about-entirely-unappreciated workhorse running, and what will follow the nuclear era in Vermont, in Meredith Angwin’s powerful, thoughtful, and saddened-but-still-optimistic blog Yes Vermont Yankee.

A 600 MW gas-fired plant, running as a 24/7 provider, will dump roughly 2.6 million tons of CO2 into the air each year. Those 2.6 million tons started going into our atmosphere last Monday, December 29.

And today, the global CO2 concentration moved again above 400 ppm. Because of the Vermont Yankee closure, and hundreds of other terrible and short-sighted anti-nuclear decisions, that 400 mark will soon become the good old days. We are heading to 500.

2 comments for “To kick off 2015, carbon concentration in our planet’s atmosphere spikes above 400 ppm, again: is this the permanent end of the 300s?

  1. January 4, 2015 at 01:27

    Thanks once again Stephen. What about our natural gas plants. They are coupled with the wind farms. Does that make sense to you? I am still looking for a report from the energy distributors and utility companies about the wear and tear on the grid. I don’t want to be CO2 witch hunter but those extra ppm you say are from less hours of sun. I feel that in the eyes of some Ontario is an energy model to be proud of. What I struggle with is the cost of electricity being so high. Is there anything wrong with just hydro and nuclear as our only power sources?

  2. R Budd
    January 4, 2015 at 16:38

    “natural gas plants. They are coupled with the wind farms. Does that make sense to you?”

    Makes sense to no one. That’s why no cost benefit analysis was ever, or will be done. The GEA was not intended as a GHG reducer. How do you improve on On.’s electricity emissions intensity with its very effective hydro/ nuclear combination?
    This is a corporate/gov’t cabal hacking off large chunks of public owned generation for their private gain and passing off the fiscal costs to ratepayers under a “greening the grid” shroud.
    Rural residents get to deal with the environmental degradation, while the urban centres continue to stew in exhaust fumes from their antiquated transportation system. Fossil fuel industry is very happy with their future in On. now.
    If anyone doubts the gov’t isn’t fully aware the RE/ NG combination replacing nuclear will increase emissions and reduce air quality, look at the recent presentation from the OPA to the Energy Board pointing out the need for more gas and also the commentary on the LTEP below.
    Thanks for continuing to point out the stupidity in this Steve.

    http://www.thinkingpower.ca/PDFs/Commentary/CCRE%20Commentary%20-%20Rethinking%20Ontario's%20Long-term%20Energy%20Plan%20-%20December%202014.pdf

    http://www.rds.ontarioenergyboard.ca/webdrawer/webdrawer.dll/webdrawer/rec/457420/view/OPA_2014%20NGMR%20Conference_Presentation_20141127.PDF

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