The Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO) in Hawaii, an atmospheric research facility that has monitored and collected data related to atmospheric change since 1958, has recorded that the US has reached its highest daily average concentration of carbon dioxide – 400 parts per million (ppm). In 1958, the daily average concentration of carbon dioxide was around 320 ppm, and has been steadily growing.
Carbon dioxide is a widely emitted greenhouse gas – usually discharged when coal, oil and natural gas is burned – and a major contributor to climate change and global warming. We have written extensively on this subject, our last blog reporting that the world does indeed have a ‘carbon budget’: in order to prevent the world’s temperature from rising more than 2°C by 2050, we can only burn 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide between now and 2050.
In his second inaugural address, President Obama said that a major focus of his second term would be climate change — but to no avail. Obama, in a joint effort with the EPA, has tried to implement new standards on gasoline and coal-fired power plants, but has been stalled by Congress and plagued by other legal issues.
The typical argument is that ‘cap and trade’ programs, or any programs that aim to limit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, could be detrimental to economic recovery; if emissions are indeed curbed, consumers could face increased electric bills and gas prices. What we need to do is work towards a solution that is advantageous to both environmental and economic recovery — President Obama was certainly correct in his second inaugural address, noting that “the failure to [respond to the threat of climate change] would betray our children and future generations.”
The world is anxiously waiting to hear how and what President Obama will be articulating in his climate initiative program on Tuesday, June 25. No matter what he says — he may be praised (about time — too little too late!) and will definitely be criticized (we cannot afford this job-killing initiative!) at the same time. The outcome is very uncertain given the super polarized political environment in DC today. Watch Obama lay out his three-part climate change strategy at 1:30 PM EDT at Georgetown University. Watch online for free.
Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan
June 20, 2013
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