Business as usual on Climate Change

If you were after some facts in the recent frenzied coverage of the Copenhagen Summit, chances are you didn’t get many. I have compiled a very brief summary of Climate Change trends here, courtesy of my subscription to Vital Signs Online by the Worldwatch Institute.

I will refrain from inserting any doom-and-gloom commentary. But please, if you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and get familiar with the facts below. They speak for themselves.

1. Atmospheric CO2 concentration is almost 40% higher than it was

Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is now 385 parts per million (ppm). This continues the past decade’s trend of rising 1.9 ppm per year (on average). Pre-industrial levels were around 280ppm.

2. CO2 emissions per-person are dangerously high in many countries

Worldwide, per capita CO2 emissions now average around 4 tonnes. The average in Australia is over 25 tonnes per-person.

3. The sea level has already risen about 20cm

Over the course of the twentieth century, mean sea level rose on average 1.7 millimeters (mm) per year; since 2003 this has accelerated, rising 2.5 mm a year.

Some other snippets from the Worldwatch report:

Even if emissions slow, their tendency to raise temperatures lasts long into the future. CO2 concentrations are expected to rise for decades after emissions peak, and temperatures could continue going up for centuries, depending on when emissions stabilize.

On sea level rise:

These processes are much slower than the increase of atmospheric temperatures, meaning that sea level rise could continue for millennia beyond peak emissions.

A few years ago the MIT Technology Review published the chart below which shows the relationship between atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration, temperature and sea level (over the past 400,000 years). This is useful background information to the updated statistics presented above…


Climate Change Proceeds Down Worrisome Path, John Mulrow, Worldwatch, 3 December 2009.

CO2 and the “Ornery Climate Beast,” David Talbot, MIT Technology Review, July/August 2006.

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