Ya run the risk, over these holidays, of missing key information...since so much new learning is arriving daily. And especially before and after Bali, it's been a remarkable month of truly shocking new findings.
So, we're forgiven if we missed Bill McKibben writing in last Friday's Washington Post on the latest news regarding the 'safe' limit in carbon emissions.
Turns out, James Hansen's presentation at the SF AGU meet included this statement: "The evidence indicates we've aimed too high -- that the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 ppm."
The reason everyone (except Bill McKibben) missed this is that is wasn't reported. Instead, the press focused on Hansen's beef with the Bushies on censoring science.
Yet, yup, Hansen looked at the terrible news coming from the 2007 ice melt data and offered a simple, straightforward and mind-blowing bottom line for the planet: 350, as in parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
"It's a number that may make what happened in Washington and Bali seem quaint and nearly irrelevant", says McKibben. "It's the number that may define our future."
Hansen has reams of paleo-climatic data to support his statements.
Fact is, the previous estimate of a 'safe' upper limit of 450ppm was a 'made-up' number. Previously, it was thought that 550 ppm was a safe level and that we just needed to curb growth to avoid that.
More recently, European Union and environmentalists groups have started to use 450 ppm as the target. So did the Stern Review, in its calculations of economic costs of climate mitigation.
The news this fall that Arctic sea ice was melting at an off-the-charts pace and data from Greenland suggesting that its giant ice sheet was starting to slide into the ocean make even 450 look too high.
Consider: We're already at 383 parts per million, and it's knocking the planet off kilter in substantial ways.
So, what does that mean? It means, Hansen says, that we've gone too far.
The outlook for 2008? As we say in the islands, we stay going. CU!