Time history of atmospheric carbon dioxide from 800,000 years before until Jan 20140


Source: NOAA, Universe Today

Category: Science, Weekend

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

23 Responses to “The Rise of Carbon Dioxide”

  1. theexpertisin says:

    Had to chuckle about the mob of television weather folks at the White House being inculcated with the latest climate disruption dictum (nice pivot from global warming and climate change which many folks scoff at).

    I used to watch television weather babes. In fact I anxiously awaited one particular top heavy (and most viewed) “certified” member of the AMS, She faced front while a map of the United States served as her back round. When the map focused on the midwest, she would turn sideways and completely block the State of Ohio from view, preventing viewers from seeing their local temperatures and storm fronts. I’ll bet no one ever called the station to complain.

  2. bear_in_mind says:

    Looked like a screaming “buy” at 350, but it’s gone parabolic since then. Another market bubble? Too late to get in?!

  3. romerjt says:

    Thanks to the increase in CO2 the nights don’t get as cold here in Albany.

    While the 30 average annual MAX temps only increased .3 degrees 1971-2000 to 1981-2010, the MIN. temps were 1.2 degrees less cold. 9th grade science says the days heat isn’t escaping. (NOAA data)

    Average annual MAX 1981 -2010 = 57.9 / 1971 – 2000 = 57.6

    Average annual MIN 1981 -2010 = 38.7 / 1971 – 2000 = 37. 5

  4. Iamthe50percent says:

    About 30% over 800,000 years is not exactly a huge rate even if it is exponential. My bank account is growing exponentially but in about a century I’ll have enough to buy a new car (or maybe an ice cream cone depending on inflation).

    Why was 800,000 years picked? I believe CO2 was much higher in epochs before then, such as the one during which Chicago was a tropical savanna and hippos bathed in Lake Michigan. Then again, looking at North Avenue Beach, hippos are still bathing.

    I’m not a denier. I think there is a serious threat that needs action. But I greatly dislike data distortion. Data is to illuminate, not to obscure. Those who distort science (either way) to further a political agenda are not scientists but rather politicians.

    • DeDude says:

      The 800,000 is chosen because that is as far back as we can get ice core data. Any further back and we would be using different types of technology raising issues of direct compatibility. There is also no reason to go any further back, we are clearly at a 800,000 year high. The issue is not whether earth at some point has had more CO2 and higher temperatures than today – that is irrelevant to whether current civilization and ecosystems can handle the predicted levels and speeds of change. What this graphics show is first of all that we have had many natural fluctuations in CO2 jumping up about 100ppm over periods of about 10,000 years. It also clearly show that the latest 100ppm jump in CO2 is unique in two ways: 1) it happened in 200 years (not 10,000), and 2) it is a jump upon a natural cycle top (we were due for a reduction to <200 and instead had another increase up to 400ppm).

  5. Engineer Mann says:

    I don’t know why otherwise hard nosed people leave their skepticism at the door when it comes to climate science. The reason why the video only shows 800k years is because before that CO2 levels were dramatically higher than they are today. In the geologically recent past, we’ve seen at least 1000PPM. And life flourished. The graph also chose to not display the uncertainty in their data, presumably because it would amount to admitting that we don’t actually know what the CO2 level was and that it may have been higher than it is today.

    The linked graphic below shows both the geologic context and the uncertainty and is from a thoroughly mainstream source.


    • DeDude says:

      It is actually irrelevant for our civilization whether earth has survived much higher CO2 and temperatures before in its history. Heck go far enough back and earth was a ball of molten rock (talk about heat). The new thing in the past 1000 years has been huge investments in non-movable infrastructure. It used to be no big deal if oceans were to rise 30 feet because then people just moved to live in caves higher up. Nobody doubts that even the worst case scenario will leave some kind of life on earth to adopt and develop just like previous destructive events did. Although we are looking at a pace of change in CO2 levels that is unprecedented. This does raise the question of whether evolution can keep up and develop new species adapted to the changed environment at a sufficient pace to allow most species to adapt and evolve rather than being eradicated.

      • Iamthe50percent says:

        Perhaps the USDA should do some original research into our crops and food animals using modern genetics. So far, gene modification has mostly consisted of pushing Roundup resistant varieties so that Monsanto can make more money. I’d like to see that research work on securing our food chain.

        Maybe evolution can’t keep pace with climate change as you suggest. So we should give it a boost.

      • formerlawyer says:

        There is some evidence that rising CO2 levels make most crops contain less nutrients.

      • cowboyinthejungle says:

        “Perhaps the USDA should do some original research into our crops and food animals using modern genetics. So far, gene modification has mostly consisted of pushing Roundup resistant varieties so that Monsanto can make more money.”

        This is not true. The research branch of the USDA, the Agricultural Research Service, does all kinds of research towards securing and improving crops/feedstock. So do many independent research labs & institutes.

        The problem, as it often seems to be, is the unethical practices of multinationals like Monsanto, Syngetna, etc. To my knowldge, they have only pushed forward GMO’s that are tied to their herbicide products, and more insidiously, have engineered F1 sterility, which prevents farmers from harvesting & using seed from the crop, instead forcing them to purchase seed annually. There has been some headway by charitable insitutions like the B&M Gates Foundation to get impactful transgenic varieties out from under the thumb of multinational profiteering. However, between the monied business interests and the fervent pseudo-science anti-GMO crowd, progress has been slow.

  6. Low Budget Dave says:

    During the Cambrian period (roughly 540 million years ago) atmospheric CO2 may have been as much as 20 times higher than now. Since then, the general trend is downward. It is important to note, though, that sudden upward spikes have almost always been associated with mass extinctions.

    Some people argue that the same asteroids that caused sudden CO2 spikes also caused the mass extinction, but the evidence is starting to point the other direction. It is now believed that the asteroids, or volcanos, that bumped up the CO2 were a short term issue, and extinctions were caused because the atmosphere (and oceans) changed faster than animals and plants could adapt.

    It is important to note, then that atmospheric CO2 may be changing as fast now as it did during the Permian extinction. This can’t be proven, but certainly, CO2 is changing faster than species can adapt. In ecological terms, the Permian extinction was actually much bigger than the extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. In less than 100,000 years, nearly everything died. Although there was at least one big asteroid strike, and at least one giant volcano, most of the animals on the planet hardly noticed it at all. It was just a gradual process of less food, less water, and more CO2.

    Right now, we are in the middle of an extinction that is shaping up to be as big, or bigger, than the Permian. The only reason people seem unconcerned is because they assume that we have thousands of years to fix it.

    But nature has shown that “gradual” change is accompanied by tipping points. There will come a point, for example, at which rain is so acetic that certain crops fail. In that year, people who rely on those crops will have to find alternate species to plant, or alternate water, or they will starve. To those of us who assume food is created by grocery stores, we only notice crop failures when the price of our favorite snack skyrockets.

    To the people who actually starve, though, the problem will seem much more severe.

    • willid3 says:

      and dont ignore the folks who dont believe that food isn’t created by grocery stores. can recall a conversation my dad and step mom had with her daughter. she had never connected chickens with what she ate. till they had that conversation

  7. Engineer Mann says:

    The few studies that bother to include data error bars or 95% certainty ranges make it clear that we cannot confidently state that it is warmer today than it was in the late 1700s. The graphs linked below are for temperature, not CO2. I couldn’t find a graphic that showed the 95% certain range for atmospheric CO2 for the recent past. Presumably because the message is too important – no point letting facts get in the way.


    People familiar with how data misrepresentation works really ought to know better.

    • DeDude says:

      You are committing a trivial but very common statistical error. The fact that the error bars for each measuring point stretch very high, does not make it within a 5% likelihood that the actual curve would be running through the top of the curve. Yes there is 0.05 likelihood that the true value for year 1 is at the top of the interval and a 0.05 likelihood that the true value for year 2 is at the top of the interval – however the likelihood that the true value for both are at the top is 0.05 x 0.05 = way less than 5%.

    • Low Budget Dave says:

      It is important to point out that several of the graphs on the page disprove your point, even past the 95% confidence. If you look at the decade averages, for example, we already exceed the 95% confidence of the 1770′s heat wave.

      The gray area you are looking in the first graph measures the reliability of any given year. Once you average out a 100 year period, though, the reliability goes up way past 95%, because we have tree rings, ice cores, lake sediments, glacier remains, coral growth measurements, etc…

      I also notice that it is usually climate change deniers who use phrases like “no point letting facts get in the way”. I have come to believe that this is the motto of climate change deniers.

  8. RW says:

    Extending the graph further back WRT the current climate change debate would have little value; e.g., homo sapiens evolved about 700,000 years ago and periodic glaciation events were major selection agents as well as causes of mass extinctions; warming periods were not what most folks would regard as particularly warm.

    IOW there is little in our evolution history or in most of our domesticated species that prepares us for what is happening now. The only recent experience we’ve had with warmer global temperatures than currently was the so-called Medieval warming period between roughly 1000-1300AD where mean global temperature was slightly less than one degree Centigrade higher than now.

    Evidence from old lake beds indicate decades-long droughts from California to the Dakotas during that period: This was no short-term rainfall deficit, it was widespread and persistent. An immense system of sand dunes spread across thousands of miles of the Great Plains, from Texas and Oklahoma in the south, right through Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, to as far north as the Canadian prairie states of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

    The [Colorado] river system lost 15 percent of its water during a major drought during the mid-1100s. For 60 years at a time, the river saw nothing but low flows. This roughly coincides with the disappearance of the Anasazi and related southwestern indian tribes.

    We are well on our way to that one degree, so much so in fact that NASA and other agencies are talking about targeting two degrees C as the essential stop it or bust point. We could dither until we get there of course but, then, the next stop it or bust point would be something like four degrees C and that would be, um, very unpleasant.

  9. DeDude says:

    Yes about 500 million years ago a process began of having substantial amounts of plant life on earth, converting CO2 to plant material. A certain amount of that plant material did not get recycled (eaten and converted back into CO2), but instead got sequestered into the crust of the earth. This slow but steady conversion of atmospheric carbon (CO2) to carbon sequestered in the earth crust gave us a colder climate. At the current temperatures the globe has been cold enough to lock up substantial amounts of water in “above ground” (land-based) ice masses and as a result the water levels at which we build our civilization are rather low.

    There have been regular natural episodes of release of some sequestered carbon as CO2 or methane and the associated temperature changes have had drastic effects on survival of species that had adapted to a different temperature. Only in the past few hundred years have humans actively worked on releasing sequestered carbon from the earths crust. Because we were to stupid, greedy and shortsighted, we decided to harvest the energy sequestered with the carbon in earth crust, rather than harvest whatever energy we needed directly from the sun. We are now facing the temperature consequences of this moronic release of sequestered carbon and we shall see how good we humans are as a species at adapting to this change. Who is going to help move Manhattan and NYC up into the Catskill foothills (and who will pay the trillion dollars to get that done)?

    • Iamthe50percent says:

      Sorry guys. Screw Manhattan. Build a new city. I’ll risk the wrath of God and say the world does not revolve around NYC.

      • DeDude says:

        Yes if it cannot fit on the trailer we may have to build a new city (and leave the old one for the fishes). But it still goner cost about a trillion. So who’s paying – that guy in the big fat ugly Escalade?

  10. Willy2 says:

    - Excellent video. But if one B. Ritholtz wants to prove his point the earth is warming then I am not buying it. Scientific evidence seems (!!!) to predict the sun is about to cool down in the (near) future. I tried to find a link to an article again I came across but to no avail.
    - In that regard we should hope for the entire world economy to collapse/implode. Then we’ll get carbon level back down to more “normal” levels.

    • formerlawyer says:

      Like these ones?

      Long story short:

      “In the last 35 years of global warming, the sun has shown a slight cooling trend. Sun and climate have been going in opposite directions.”

      It continues to amaze me that the American public is taking their scientific knowledge from anyone other that the climate scientist.

      • DeDude says:

        Yes it kind of speaks to the terrible state of science education in our schools that people cannot interpret such simple data. Solar cycle data alone predict a natural stabilization or minute fall in temperature, but instead we actually observe an substantial increase. That would suggest that the anthropogenic component of global warming is WORSE than previously predicted.

    • Iamthe50percent says:

      The Sun is a variable star. It rhythmically heats and cools. Interestingly, when it cools, the radiation emission actually goes up as the surface area expands. Think red Giant.