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The March Toward Disaster: CO2 at All Time High
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May 13, 2013

The March Toward Disaster: CO2 at All Time High

By Nicole Spector
Contributing Writer

Yeah, so, all the things humans have been doing to save the planet from a fate plunged in carbon emissions?

It's not enough – not nearly enough. In fact, research shows it's pretty much nothing when considering the daunting reality of our choking atmosphere.  

On Friday, it was revealed to scientists that the Earth's level of carbon dioxide has passed a terrifying milestone – reaching a concentration not seen on the Earth for at least three million years.

The mere decades of efforts some of us have been making to constrain carbon emissions – ones that we have created – are not making a dent in the surge of potent gas in the air.

Our automobiles and airplanes and every flip of a light switch has taken our planet to pre-human conditions.

Scientists find the rise in carbon dioxide to be highly portentous. There are predictions of large changes in the climate and the level of the sea. Not good ones for life on Earth.

“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic (News - Alert) and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.

And the failure, as it stands now, will lead to calamity, suggests Ralph Keeling, who runs another monitoring program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds,” Keeling said.

Considering just how much money, time, and literal energy is being poured into carbon emissions, relatively little is being spent to discover and deploy alternative technologies that our survival depends on.

Who is to blame? All of us – but if we're to point fingers at the largest producers of carbon emissions, then that would be China, technically, but experts say that Americans are actually the most substantial consumers of fossil fuels. Per capita, we eat up more than any other nation.

“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.

What can be done?

Let's hope we find out – and let's hope Mark Pagani, a Yale geochemist who studies climates of the past is wrong when he says “the time to do something was yesterday.”

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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