Grim climate news from Cape Grim

Cape Grim is home to an atmospheric monitoring station in north-west Tasmania. From this remote site, they recorded a significant figure for the first time yesterday. But it’s not one to be proud of. That figure — 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide (CO2) recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station, operated by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, records some of the cleanest air on the planet. Being so remote from industrial and urban pollution, it’s a hallmark location for detecting pristine air.

So when this 400 ppm of CO2 is the highest baseline figure ever recorded by the Cape Grim site, it’s incredibly worrying.

The CO2 measurements began in 1976, making the station incredibly important for climate science with historical records from the last four decades.

This graph shows the effect of a post-industrial era (1800s onwards) on carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas that causes climate change, particularly in the last 40 years. The evidence is hard to argue with.

In an interview with Fairfax Media, David Etheridge, a CSIRO principal research scientist, said atmospheric CO2 levels had fluctuated around 280 ppm until humans’ burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests set in process rising levels of greenhouse gases almost without pause since about 1800.

A serious slowing of the growth of CO2 is required. It will require a massive global effort to prevent the increasing greenhouse gas emission.

In the ocean, it’s making the water more acidic. This acid trip is not going to end well and is already leading to coral bleaching.

This latest news is just one of recent headlines forewarning the need to do something about climate change. It also combines with news that broke yesterday from NASA’s latest temperature recordings reports that last month was the warmest April on record globally AND the seventh month in a row to break temperature records.

A UN meeting on Monday this week kicked off planning for governments who signed the COP21 Paris Agreement in December 2015. They will work out how to implement a plan to reduced greenhouse gas emissions towards the agreed target of limiting the rise of temperature to 1.5°C since post-industrial era.

There’s an air of truth to Cape Grim’s name. Let’s hope that the governments take on board the evidence. It’s time for a breath of fresh air with collective action.

Originally published on Australia’s Science Channel: