Hitting 400

I tweeted about this the other day, but it’s something I’ve found my mind keeps coming back to. So it’s worth pointing out again. Here’s how the New York Times reported it:

The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years.

Scientific instruments showed that the gas had reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.

The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.

“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.

The full report is here.

It brings to mind the question that Pope Francis posed, just days after his election in March, in an audience with 6,000 reporters who covered the conclave. Explaining the reasons he chose the name Francis, the new pope invoked the memory of Saint Francis of Assisi. Mentioning il Povorello’s great love for creation, Pope Francis asked: “These days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we?”

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