Global carbon dioxide level passes the point of no return

The global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) may never again fall below the 400 parts per million (ppm) milestone recorded this September.  The measurement was taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the primary global site for atmospheric CO2 monitoring.  While the first 400ppm reading was recorded at Mauna Loa in 2013, each year since it has dipped back below 400ppm.

The northern hemisphere has a seasonal cycle and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 decrease in summer and increase in winter.  CO2 concentrations are usually lowest in September due to the effect of plant photosynthesis during the summer.  A 400ppm reading in September marks a significant turning point, indicating that levels may never again fall below the mark again.


Almost impossible

Ralph Keeling, who runs the carbon dioxide monitoring program at the Scripps Institute for Oceanography’s, commented on the readings in a recent blog post:

“Is it possible that October 2016 will yield a lower monthly value than September and dip below 400 ppm?  Almost impossible.  Brief excursions toward lower values are still possible, but it already seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year – or ever again for the indefinite future.”
The average global temperature has risen about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F) since 1880 – according to the latest (January 2014) analysis from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) – and 2016 is set to be the hottest year on record.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released data showing September to be the culmination of 16 straight record-hot months, which has never before been recorded in the NOAA’s 137 years of record-keeping.

Global temperatures are now moving closer to the 1.5°C warming threshold, a key metric in last year’s Paris climate agreement where 195 nations committed to the goal of limiting the global temperature rise to ‘well below’ two degrees.

Accelerated timeframe

Whilst there are already a number of initiatives to reduce emissions underway, including the World Bank Zero Flaring Initiative, an accelerated timetable is needed for the target to remain achievable.  Reduction targets, known as Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs), have been submitted by 187 countries, but individual nations will need to exceed their own targets if temperature levels are to rise by less than the two degrees aimed for.  Current targets will still fall short of this decrease by 0.7 degrees.

For oil and gas companies, the primary goal should be to eliminate ongoing flaring within existing operations and to ensure that new oilfield developments incorporate gas utilisation solutions that will avoid routine gas flaring or venting.

Ultrasonic flow meters have a significant part to play, as accurate flow measurement will be vital not only in managing flaring reduction and ensuring compliance with any associated regulation, but also helping to inform strategy and planning once widespread gas capture and storage solutions are in place.  Management is crucial to this process and unless countries can accurately measure, effective management is impossible.

October 3, 2016 | News

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