Impact Insights: Record CO2 Levels, Record Temperatures—It’s Getting Hot in Here

Earlier this year at the Cape Grim atmospheric measuring station in Australia, a climate milestone was reached. For the first time the station recorded carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere of over 400 ppm (Figure 1). This is notable for its implications, as Cape Grim is located in a region of the globe where CO2 concentrations are stable across all seasons.

Figure 1

Figure 1

In 2013, that same milestone was initially passed at the Mauna Loa measuring station in Hawaii. However, the Northern Hemisphere experiences a cyclical carbon dioxide cycle, and the concentration quickly dipped back below that threshold. Now, in parallel with the measurements at Cape Grim, Mauna Loa has seen the monthly mean measurement of atmospheric CO2 pass 400 ppm with no expectation that the number will dip below that threshold again.

When asked about the significance of these numbers, Dr. Gavin Schmidt, climatologist and climate modeler at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, remarked, “We are a society that has inadvertently chosen the double-black diamond run without having learned to ski first. It will be a bumpy ride.” These CO2 numbers are highlighted by another recent climate milestone. NASA released data in May revealing that the previous seven months had all seen the monthly average temperature record broken – seven consecutive months that were the hottest on record. This trend, which included the first four months of 2016, signaled that this year will be the hottest year on record and that it may be so by a very large margin. These record temperature measurements were not limited to just terrestrial observation stations. The same trend was observed by both the Remote Sensing Systems and the UAH satellite temperature datasets.

While the released data emphasizes the past seven months, this is an extension of a long-running trend of warmer than average temperatures. In fact, April marked the 369th consecutive month for which NASA has recorded at or above average temperatures, with the last colder-than-average month being July 1985. (NASA uses an average temperature based on the temperatures measured from 1951 – 1980.) Disconcertingly, the global monthly mean temperature variance from the average over the seven record months through April were all measured as greater than 1 degree Celsius, something that had never occurred prior to October 2015, the beginning of this record run of high temperatures.

In order to ensure that future generations have access to a similar level of resources and have the opportunity to flourish in a world that is still vibrant, efforts must be made to conserve resources and address a growing litany of environmental issues, including increased GHG emissions and rising global temperatures as outlined above. Impact investors can aid in these efforts by supporting organizations and projects focused on areas such as energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and resource conservation efforts, as well as innovative programs and technologies intended to transform a fragile today into a resilient tomorrow. To learn more about SNW’s Impact Strategy, click here.

Source: The Guardian, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)