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Carbon Dioxide Levels Reach Unprecedented Highs: But Catastrophic Climate Change Can Still be Avoided

Alan Miller's picture

 Courtesy of World Meteorological Organization
Graph shows concentrations of atmospheric Co2 for the last 800,000 years, with measurements, starting from 1958, made at Mauna Loa in Hawaii. - Image courtesy of World Meteorological Organization

Scientists monitoring atmospheric concentrations of CO2 from a mountaintop in Hawaii recently reported that the presence of this greenhouse gas exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in at least three million years – a period when temperatures were much warmer than today. The significance of this seemingly dry statistical trend is stunning as reported in the New York Times:

From studying air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice, scientists know that going back 800,000 years, the carbon dioxide level oscillated in a tight band, from about 180 parts per million in the depths of ice ages to about 280 during the warm periods between. The evidence shows that global temperatures and CO2 levels are tightly linked.

In addition to the location in Hawaii, several other Global Atmosphere Watch stations from the Arctic to the Equator reported CO2 concentrations exceeding 400ppm.

Experts believe that in order to limit warming to 2°C – a goal based on expected impacts – concentrations should rise to no more than 450 ppm, a level we may reach in only about 25 years based on current trends.

Carbon is the same everywhere, but carbon governance isn't..

Andrea Liverani's picture

Carbon governancethe institutional arrangements in place for mitigating greenhouse gas emissionscan vary considerably across countries. In Brazil, the financial community is actively interested in carbon trading, but Chinese banks have hardly any interest in it. In India, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) market is developed almost uniquely by domestic companies, while China relies extensively on foreign firms. And while the Chinese government takes an active interest in providing capacity to project developers, the Brazilian authorities see their role uniquely as guarantors of environmental integrity of emissions reductions projects. So, if carbon is the same everywhere, why is carbon governance so incredibly varied?

Supporting Low Carbon Development: Six country cases

Jane Ebinger's picture

A year ago I was assigned from a World Bank operations team providing support to countries in Europe and Central Asia on energy, climate mitigation and adaptation to work in a Bank administered trust fund, the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), as a thematic coordinator for energy and climate change in this program. One of my roles is to coordinate a program that is providing support to six emerging economies—Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa—that are proactively seeking to identify opportunities and related financial, technical and policy requirements to move towards a low carbon growth path.

The program has been underway for two years and individual country studies have been managed by World Bank operational teams. The governments of these countries have initiated country-specific studies to assess their goals and development priorities, in conjunction with greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation opportunities, and examine the additional costs and benefits of lower carbon growth. This requires analysis of various development pathways—policy and investment options that contribute to growth and development objectives while moderating increases in GHG emissions.