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November 23, 2011 at 9:46 AMComments: 1 Faves: 1

Greenhouse Gas Levels Exceed Scientists' Worst Fears

By Laura Hogg More Blogs by This Author

Welcome back to NatuREport!

After last week's depressing look at the 20 most polluted cities in America, I so want to be able to give you good news. Unfortunately, what I have to report today is...not so good. But have no fear - I'll finish off by giving you some tips on how you can take the initiative to counteract this bad news!

So what's in the news this week?

A new report issued Monday by the U.N. World Meteorological Organization has confirmed that greenhouse gas levels are at a record high - coming in at almost double what the levels were at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Scientists had once decided that as long as we could keep CO2 levels at or below 350 parts per million (their "danger" number), we would be doing - if not great - at least okay.

The problem is, we passed up the 350 mark two decades ago. We're now at 389 parts per million. (The kicker? If we hadn't torn down all those forests, they could have absorbed most of the man-made CO2 emissions. Um, oops.)

Okay, it's easy to say we're at a record high, and that that's not a good thing. But let's be honest - 389 parts per million is a pretty abstract concept, especially considering that greenhouse gases are so called because they're invisible.

Not so with new technology that has made it possible to actually see the greenhouse gases. Take a look. Not a pretty sight, huh?

Though there will be an environmental summit in South Africa next week, many experts are not hopeful that any meaningful change will come from it. "There's very, very little chance (that the conference will make a difference)," said professor Ron Prinn. "Maybe we've waited too long to do anything serious."

Well, talk about a defeatist attitude! Whether or not the big decision-makers accomplish anything major at next week's summit, there are small changes we can all make to help cut down on our carbon footprint. Things like:

Participate in Meatless Mondays. As I pointed out last week, if every American replaced chicken with a vegetarian option just one meal a week, it would have the same environmental benefit as taking 500,000 cars off the road. Eating a vegetarian or vegan diet more often would, of course, be of even more benefit.

Stop drinking bottled water. The impact of bottled water on the environment is huge - and the water almost always isn't any better for you. Buy a reusable bottle and fill it from the tap, and your carbon footprint will shrink.

Wash with cold water. Now, I'm not saying you need to take cold showers - though that's not a bad idea if you can handle it - but rather that you should consider using cold water to wash your clothes. Heating up water for a load of laundry sucks up a lot of energy and in most cases, it's not necessary.

What do you  do to reduce your carbon footprint? Post your tips in the comments!


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1 Comment

  • That's sad we passed our the level of CO2 emissions...and 2 decades ago? Wow.

    Things I do:

    I always drink tap water. And have my own reusable water bottle.

    I try to take short showers, 5 minutes or less. I'm always in a hurry during the morning so it works out well.

    I eat less meat than I normally have been, whether it be no meat one day or small portions.

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