A Visual Representation of Atmospheric CO2 (Video)

I just learned of this video in class this evening.  It’s a pretty stunning graphical representation of the change in CO2 levels over time.

The left pane shows the distribution of CO2 throughout the atmosphere by latitude with the south pole on the left edge and the north pole on the right.  The right pane displays the Keeling Curve, which shows the global average slowly ticking up.  Global averages show a stair step function as growing seasons of northern hemisphere summers counteract this activity for part of the year.  Unfortunately, it is not enough to counteract a year’s production of CO2.  The activists at Bill McKibben’s 350.org think we should try to stay at or below 350 parts per million, but we’re already approaching 400 ppm with no relief in sight.

The video starts out with data from the 1960s, when Charles Keeling began recording CO2 levels at the Mauna Loa Observatory.  The graph comes forward to present day and then projects back using data from ice core samples.  The video makes it plain to see the impact we’ve had on the atmosphere.  Check it out and please share you thoughts in the comments section below.
Thanks for stopping by!

Update: 9/14/2011

It’s like I always say, “If you wait around long enough, Paul Krugman will solve all of your problems.” Check out Mr. Krugman’s “response” to a commenter’s desire for a scale that starts at zero: “Axes of Evil?

9 thoughts on “A Visual Representation of Atmospheric CO2 (Video)

  1. Very interesting presentation. It took a long time to get .004% increase in our past and present century. Also the residual climb of the presentation is in line with past residual time frame considering there was no human interference, it is plain that the human effect is in this presentation, but it hasn’t reached the threshold that nature intervenes and corrects the balance. People and their misuse of resources are the prime cause of what we see and putting a tax on it will correct the situation, and we will all live happily ever after the same as the tax on cigarettes and alcohol have solved those social problems.

    Gotta go to bed now as the tooth fairy is coming tonight.


  2. A very nice presentation undoubtedly.

    However, there is a debate that has been propagated to negate the impact of increase of GHG emissions with global warming. This debate has several reasons – see the American denial of global warming http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T4UF_Rmlio and others.

    Galilieo was hanged by sceptics – who happened to be in majority at that time and today we are praising the work. Today the sceptics are in minority with ability to capture media attention and spread their stories.

    And if the impact of the GHG on the temperatures is no issue – look at the temperature profile of
    1. Moon – on Earth we should be having the same temperature profile on earth, since we are adjoining specs in the solar system. The difference is the diffusion of heat due to the GHG present in the atmosphere. It is the increasing volume of GHG in the air that is a concern.

    1. Planet Venus is further away from the sun than Mars – yet has a hotter environment than Mars. Planet Earth and Venus have similar quantities of carbon mass on them. Venus has most of it over the surface in the atmosphere, while Earth has major quantity under the surface.

    Yes, there have been some errors in the IPCC statements – science is an evolving process and we will continue to increase our understanding. Human Development and Activity has not waited for complete knowledge but has worked with available information.

    One of the major issues has been economics – a subject dealing with allocation of scarce resources, through pricing mechanism, as also through legislation. The problems that we are experiencing relating to ecology and environment have essentially arisen due to the fact that we did not have a process for pricing damage to free resources.

    We as a society have made our free resources scarce so that we can have a pricing mechanism – either through the markets or through legislation to be developed. Generally it has been seen that the market mechanism in such situations have had lesser impact than legislation and community action. Examples abound.

  3. Pingback: CO2 rise video infographic « Freetaste: fresh samplings of ideas

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  5. Very good graphics, fantastic for architects who are specializing in sustainability and examining the distribution of Co2 over the years…..Regarding somehow doing something to reduce this huge amount I recommend Botanoo.com where you not only doing good for Mother Earth but making some profit as well by trading with Carbon Credits. My e-mail is: aniko008@gmail.com. If you interested to know more.
    Regards, Aniko

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  7. Dear Kanwal Jit Singh,
    how can we take your comments seriously if you think Venus is further away from the sun than Mars. Let me repeat what I learnt in school over 50 years ago: order of the planets starting from the nearest to sun: Merkurius, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and so on.

    I find the graphics in the video very illustrative. The problem is the misleading use of scale. If one starts from 320 and ends with 390, the change seems much more radical than if the scale would be drawn as it should, from 0 to 390.

  8. Jouko,
    I believe Kanwal was referring to Mercury rather than Mars. Assuming that’s the case, the comments are valid.
    Planet temp graph: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/pgifs/Planettemps.GIF

    Starting the scale at zero seems inappropriate as the lowest recorded levels of CO2 are in the neighborhood of 150ppm and this was at the coldest point of an ice age. Showing a scale that dropped below that would only be done to minimize the impact of viewing the data. Pre-industrial CO2 levels have been measured at around 278ppm, so the scale could possibly start there, or we could just go with percent variation from that level, which is closing in on +42%.
    Pre-industrial CO2 level: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2005/s2412.htm
    Current CO2 level: http://co2now.org/

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