I recently read that atmospheric carbon levels have reached a troubling new record. Carbon in the Arctic has now reached 400 parts per million (ppm), and the rest of the planet (currently at 395 ppm) is not far behind. Prior to the Industrial Age, atmospheric carbon levels were around 275 ppm, and many scientists think that 350 ppm is the highest safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (yikes).
According to the article, global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels reached 34.8 billion tons – an increase of 3.2% from 2010 and a record high. It has also been stated that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have not been this high for at least 800,000 years. While some, such as economist Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, believe that global temperatures have flattened out despite increasing carbon concentrations, records prove that claim to be incorrect. Temperature records show that the decade of 2000-2009 was the warmest on record.
This news is troubling, but I honestly think we can still take action to make a difference. In that vein, the EPA has proposed a new regulation under the Clean Air Act that would limit carbon emissions from new power plants. While it would not have an effect on emissions at existing plants (one step at a time, right?), it would be a step in the right direction because power plants are responsible for approximately 40% of our overall greenhouse gas emissions. It has been asserted that this measure could effectively cut carbon emissions in half over the lifetime of a new power plant. And, while these power plants could still choose to burn fossil fuels, they must utilize carbon reduction technologies.
I think it is fantastic that the EPA is taking a stand to reduce carbon emissions. This is a critical task that must take place if we are going to protect our earth from excessive warming. Unfortunately, industry is fighting the measure. For that reason, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is sending letters to the EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, to demonstrate public support for the proposal. While I am not usually one to get involved in politics beyond voting, I think this letter is an easy way to demonstrate support for a very important regulation. Check it out if you’re interested – it only takes about 2 minutes.
I like clean air. Don’t you?