Fifty years ago, Charles David Keeling started monitoring the level of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere from atop Mauna Loa, so top climate scientists from all over gathered last week on Hawaii Island to celebrate his accomplishments and raise the bar for future monitoring programs.
Notable sound bites included a call for a 'Manhattan Project' for US emissions reduction by Alexander MacDonald, head of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory. MacDonald also noted that betting against climate change is "like playing Russian roulette".
And retired Navy Vice Adm. Paul Gaffney had a warning for climate change deniers:
"If you wait until you are 100 percent certain, something bad is going to happen."
Gaffney urges the US to integrate climate change trends into national security planning and strategies, calling for a stronger US role to help stem climate trend and partnerships with less developed nations for adaptation and resiliency.
Gaffney also called on US businesses to adopt processes and technologies that reduce energy dependency.
Looking forward, some new research tools are becoming available, according to Leonard Barrie, director of the World Meteorological Organization. Two satellites now measure upper-atmosphere carbon dioxide, work they were not designed to do. Two new ones, the U.S. Orbiting Carbon Observatory and Japan's GOSAT, are due to study the entire amount of the gas from ground level to the edge of space.
Plus, says Barrie, a new generation of computer models will integrate short-term weather prediction with long-term climate prediction.
This notable gathering in Hawaii to mark the 50th anniversary of atmospheric carbon studies included numerous scientists, government representatives and business leaders speaking to 175 attendees throughout the three-day symposium.
For the record, the studies of the gas by Charles David Keeling began in 1957 at Mauna Loa Observatory, which he established at the 11,000-foot elevation under the sponsorship of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Since 1972 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has continued and expanded the work.