February, a month of records

Straight from the horse’s mouth, and it’s now official. At 404.16 ppm, February 2016 produced the highest monthly average CO2 level since Keeling records began back in 1958, and at 3.85 ppm the gap between the February 2016 level and the February 2015 level was also the highest on record.

Just to rub salt in to the poor old planet’s wounds, on 8 February the daily average CO2 level was 406.27 ppm which was the highest one-day level ever recorded up to that date, and just to keep these records rolling along nicely, on 2 March 2016, a new daily average record was set at 406.46 ppm, which includes the 18 march reaching a new record at 407.12 ppm.

(Image: CO2.Earth)

(Image: CO2.Earth)

If you still have the stomach for a few more records, let’s have a look at the global temperature increases from the year 1880, which is the year when global temperatures were first recorded and analysed. For the next 96 years from 1880, with a few ups and downs (more downs than ups), by 1976 the annual global average temperature was in fact 0.01°C cooler than in 1880. But then came 1977 and things changed. From that year on we had no more downs, only ups, and year by year Planet Earth got just that little bit warmer. Records were now falling thick and fast, and at 0.74°C, 2014 set a new record, quickly followed by 2015 with average global temperatures for that year now at 0.81°C above the 1880 figure.

So where are we likely to go in 2016?

Well, January 2016 at an average temperature 1.04°C above the 1880 temperature was the hottest January since records began, and it was subsequently massively upstaged by February at 1.35°C.



Just as the planet was setting new records for the rate of warming, a large part of its cooling system, the massive store of Arctic ice, was also breaking records for the rate at which that ice mass was melting. On 6 March, the National Snow and Ice Data Centre published the February Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis, which showed that the February 2016 sea ice extent was the lowest in the satellite record at 14.22 million square kilometers (5.48 million square miles). The linear rate of decline for February is now 3.0 percent per decade.

(Image: NSIDC)

(Image: NSIDC)

So just when the average temperature of our planet is warming year by year, there appears to be one little area, the sub-polar North Atlantic that’s defying the trend, and for some years now has been getting colder. This stretch of water between Newfoundland and Britain is the Eastward flow of the global conveyor or Gulf Stream, which conveys warm surface water to Britain and adjacent areas making our winters about 5°C warmer than normal.

In a recent report by Stefan Rahmstorf, an ocean physicist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, he says they have evidence of a slowdown during the 20th century and now we have strong evidence that the global conveyor has indeed been weakening in the past hundred years, particularly since 1970 and that it probably results from Climate Change. Meanwhile evidence is also mounting that the long-feared circulation decline is already well underway, and the rapid rise in the rate of melting of the Greenland icecap, bringing an increased flow of water that is less saline and also less dense to the area, could well speed up the decline and eventually stop the flow of the conveyor completely. A stop or even just a decline would have a dramatic effect on Britain and North Europe with more storms, colder winters and a reduced agricultural growing season.

So what do the “powers that be” do to reduce the CO2 that’s causing the temperature rise?

Well on 10 March, the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, announced that the Bank would reduce the interest rate to a negative -0.4%, and increase the quantitative easing (QE money printing) from €60bn a month to €80bn (£61bn) a month. All of these changes are designed to discourage saving and encourage capital investment and spending in the consumer market. As I said in a previous post in February, “…more growth needs more energy, and more energy needs more fossil fuels, and more fossil fuels produce more CO2, and more CO2 makes for more Global Warming. It’s not the integral calculus, it’s not even complicated, it’s just simple arithmetic in a simple vicious circle.” [1]

While we’re on the subject of breaking records, I must say that I think that given today’s global warming situation, Mr Mario Draghi’s recent action might well prove to be a new record for sheer stupidity.

While us Homo sapiens seem to be hard-wired to die if necessary protecting our children from immediate dangers, sadly we’re all a bit slow in recognising and coping with the longer range risks. Global warming is just such a risk, and it’s getting a bit closer and worse as we speak.

We need some action and we need it now. If we lose this battle, it’s our children and grandchildren who will suffer, and we, the generation born around 1930 will be remembered as the generation which was mainly responsible for creating the problem, and yet was too selfish, or too greedy or just too stupid to do anything about it.

[1] Read related post: Did Davos Save the Planet? – My opinion on the annual jamboree, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland