Sunday, May 24, 2009 urges return of atmospheric CO2 to 300 ppm urges the World to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration (CO2) to about 300 parts per million by volume (ppmv). In urging a target of an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 300 ppm, is informed by the advice of top world climate scientists as set out below.

In short, the World is acutely threatened by man-made global warming due to profligate greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. The atmospheric CO2 concentration is currently 387 ppm and increasing at about 2 ppm annually. CO2 is a major GHG but other GHGs include methane (CH4) and Nitrous oxide (N2O). The current atmospheric GHG concentration in units of CO2-equivalent (CO2-e) is about 450 ppm. The average global surface temperature is now about 0.8oC above that in 1900.

The post-1900 temperature increase of 0.8oC has already been associated with very damaging climatic disruption, specifically increased sea levels; increased energy of tropical hurricanes; ocean warming; increased melting of glaciers; increased sea ice melting in the Arctic and Antarctic; methane release from the Arctic Ocean and tundra; increased extent of forest fires; island submergence; increased drought; increased floods; coral die off; mass species extinction at 100-1,000 times the rate indicated by the fossil record; hundreds of thousands of climate refugees; increased insect, fire and drought damage to forests; spread of insect vector-borne disease; and increased human avoidable mortality (avoidable death, excess mortality, excess death) (for detailed accounts see footnote to James Hansen (2007), Huge sea level rises are coming – unless we act now”, New Scientist, 2614, 26 July 2007: link ; John Holdren (2008), “The Science of Climatic Disruption” (power point lecture): link ; and Gideon Polya (2009), “Global warming, climate emergency” U3A course notes: link ).

The consequences of man-made global warming for ecosystems and species survival are already dire at an average global surface temperature that is currently about 0.8oC above that in 1900. Many scientists now doubt that we can avoid further damaging temperature increases to over 2C above that in 1900 (see: link ) .

According to top UK climate scientist Dr James Lovelock FRS fewer than 1 billion people (mostly European) will survive the century due to First World profligacy and unaddressed man-made climate change (see: Gaia Vince (2009), “One last chance to save mankind“, New Scientist, 23 January 2009: link ) – this translating to 10 billion deaths (mostly of non-Europeans, 3 billion Muslims, 2 billion Indians) in an already-commenced Climate Holocaust and Climate Genocide (see: link ) . agrees with the Climate Emergency perceptions and goals of the Melbourne-based Yarra Valley Climate Action Group and specifically with what needs to be done (see “Climate Emergency facts and required actions”: link ):

1. Change of societal philosophy to one of scientific risk management and biological sustainability with complete cessation of species extinctions and zero tolerance for lying.

2. Urgent reduction of atmospheric CO2 to a safe level of about 300 ppm as recommended by leading climate and biological scientists.

3. Rapid switch to the best non-carbon and renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide and hydro options that are currently roughly the same market price as coal burning-based power) and to energy efficiency, public transport, needs-based production, re-afforestation and return of carbon as biochar to soils coupled with correspondingly rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, methanogenic livestock production and population growth.

Inspired by the position of Dr Hansen (head, NASA GISS) that “CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm” (see: link ), the world-wide organization has the excellent position of urging a return of the atmospheric CO2 concentration to 350 ppm or less and indeed is organizing a marvellous world-wide day of action on 24 October 2009 to publicize this position (see: link ) .

The Australian national Climate Action Summit in Canberra (January 2009) involved over 140 community action groups and endorsed a key aim for stabilisation at 300 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere and strong international agreement in line with what science and global justice demands (see: link ) .

The name reflects support for the implicit goal of less than 350 ppm CO2 and the goal of about 300 ppm CO2 of the Australian Climate Action Summit, the Australian Climate Emergency Network (link ) and the Yarra Valley Climate Action Group (link ).

Just as we turn to top medical specialists for advice on life-threatening disease, so we turn to the opinions of top scientists and in particular top biological and climate scientists for Climate Change risk assessment and Climate Emergency facts and requisite Actions. Below are quotations from leading climate scientists and biological scientists supporting the need for an atmospheric CO2 concentration in the range 300-350 ppm i.e. after either “rounding down” or applying the “precautionary principle” of the lower safe limit, an atmospheric CO2 concentration of about 300 ppm.

1. Dr James Hansen (top US climate scientist; Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; member of the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences; 2007 Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science; Adjunct Professor, Columbia University, New York, USA; see: link ; for 1880-present NASA GISS Global Temperature graphed data see: link and link ).

(a) With 8 UK, French and US climate change scientist co-authors (2008): “Paleoclimate data show that climate sensitivity is ~3 deg-C for doubled CO2 [carbon dioxide; atmospheric CO2 280 ppm pre-industrial], including only fast feedback processes. Equilibrium sensitivity, including slower surface albedo feedbacks, is ~6 deg-C for doubled CO2 for the range of climate states between glacial conditions and ice-free Antarctica. Decreasing CO2 was the main cause of a cooling trend that began 50 million years ago, large scale glaciation occurring when CO2 fell to 450 +/- 100 ppm [parts per million], a level that will be exceeded within decades, barring prompt policy changes. If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm. The largest uncertainty in the target arises from possible changes of non-CO2 forcings. An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects” (see: link ).

(b) In relation to the recent book “Climate Code Red. The case for emergency action” by David Spratt and Philip Sutton (Scribe, Melbourne, 2008; see: link ): “A compelling case … we face a climate emergency.”

(c) 2007 (Hansen, J., Mki. Sato, P. Kharecha, G. Russell, D.W. Lea, and M. Siddall, 2007: Climate change and trace gases. Phil. Trans. Royal. Soc. A, 365, 1925-1954): “Paleoclimate data show that the Earth's climate is remarkably sensitive to global forcings. Positive feedbacks predominate. This allows the entire planet to be whipsawed between climate states. One feedback, the "albedo flip" property of water substance, provides a powerful trigger mechanism. A climate forcing that "flips" the albedo of a sufficient portion of an ice sheet can spark a cataclysm. Ice sheet and ocean inertia provides only moderate delay to ice sheet disintegration and a burst of added global warming. Recent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions place the Earth perilously close to dramatic climate change that could run out of our control, with great dangers for humans and other creatures. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the largest human-made climate forcing, but other trace constituents are important. Only intense simultaneous efforts to slow CO2 emissions and reduce non-CO2 forcings can keep climate within or near the range of the past million years. The most important of the non-CO2 forcings is methane (CH4), as it causes the 2nd largest human-made GHG climate forcing and is the principal cause of increased tropospheric ozone (O3), which is the 3rd largest GHG forcing. Nitrous oxide (N2O) should also be a focus of climate mitigation efforts. Black carbon ("black soot") has a high global warming potential (~2000, 500, and 200 for 20, 100 and 500 years, respectively) and deserves greater attention. Some forcings are especially effective at high latitudes, so concerted efforts to reduce their emissions could still "save the Arctic", while also having major benefits for human health, agricultural productivity, and the global environment” (see: link ).

(d) 2008, in an address to the US National Press Club and a briefing to the US House Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming Congressional Committee: “CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature” (see: link ).

(e) Dr James Hansen et al. (2008): “Stabilization of Arctic sea ice cover requires, to first approximation, restoration of planetary energy balance. Climate models driven by known forcings yield a present planetary energy imbalance of +0.5-1 W/m2. Observed heat increase in the upper 700 m of the ocean confirms the planetary energy imbalance, but observations of the entire ocean are needed for quantification. CO2 amount must be reduced to 325-355 ppm to increase outgoing flux 0.5-1 W/m2, if other forcings are unchanged. A further imbalance reduction, and thus CO2 ~300-325 ppm, may be needed to restore sea ice to its area of 25 years ago” (see: link ).

2. Dr Andrew Glikson (an Earth and paleo-climate research scientist at Australian National University, Canberra, Australia) in “The Methane Time Bomb and the Triple Melt-down" (see: link ): “For some time now, climate scientists warned that melting of subpolar permafrost and warming of the Arctic Sea (up to 4 degrees C during 2005–2008 relative to the 1951–1980) are likely to result in the dissociation of methane hydrates and the release of this powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere (methane: 62 times the infrared warming effect of CO2 over 20 years and 21 times over 100 years) … The amount of carbon stored in Arctic sediments and permafrost is estimated as 500–2500 Gigaton Carbon (GtC), as compared with the world’s total fossil fuel reserves estimated as 5000 GtC. Compare with the 700 GtC of the atmosphere, which regulate CO2 levels in the range of 180–300 parts per million and land temperatures in a range of about – 50 to + 50 degrees C, which allowed the evolution of warm blooded mammals. The continuing use of the atmosphere as an open sewer for industrial pollution has already added some 305 GtC to the atmosphere together with land clearing and animal-emitted methane. This raised CO2 levels to 387 ppm CO2 to date, leading toward conditions which existed on Earth about 3 million years (Ma) ago (mid-Pliocene), when CO2 levels rose to about 400 ppm, temperatures to about 2–3 degrees C and sea levels by about 25 +/- 12 metres. There is little evidence for an extinction at 3 Ma. However, by crossing above a CO2 level of 400 ppm the atmosphere is moving into uncharted territory. At this stage, enhanced methane leaks threaten climate events, such as the massive methane release and fauna extinction of 55 million years ago, which was marked by rise of CO2 to near-1000 ppm.”

3. Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research., Germany (see: link ) (2008): “"It is a compromise between ambition and feasibility. A rise of 2oC could avoid some of the big environmental disasters, but it is still only a compromise…It is a very sweeping argument, but nobody can say for sure that 330ppm is safe. Perhaps it will not matter whether we have 270ppm or 320ppm, but operating well outside the [historic] realm of carbon dioxide concentrations is risky as long as we have not fully understood the relevant feedback mechanisms" (see: link ) [280 ppm is the pre-industrial atmospheric CO2 concentration].

4. Part of a statement prepared by Dr Barrie Pittock PSM (former leader, Climate Impact Group, CSIRO, IPCC Lead Author, and author of Climate Change: Turning Up the Heat), and Dr Andrew Glikson (Earth and paleoclimate research scientist, former Principal Research Scientist, AGSO; Visiting Fellow, Australian National University), and endorsed by 40 leading Australian environment scientists: “Australia to make every effort through its own and international actions to prevent CO2 -- equivalent levels from rising above 450 ppm and global warming from rising above 2 degrees C relative to pre-industrial temperatures, as is the European target. Further reduction of CO2 levels to 300-350 ppm may be required to have a reasonable probability of restoring a safe climate” (see: link ). will continue to inform people about the Climate Emergency and the need to reduce atmospheric CO2 to a safe and sustainable level of about 300 ppm – the bottom line being the Credo of the Accountability, Badge and Credo (ABC) protocol for saving the Biosphere, namely “We believe in a safe and sustainable existence for all peoples and all species on our warming-threatened Planet and that this requires a rapid reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to about 300 parts per million” (see “How to save the Planet. Accountability, Badge & Credo (ABC Protocol) on MWC News, 14 May 2009: link ) .