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.
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.