Per capita Davis: Breaking the Record
This adapted column by John Mott-Smith, a member of Cool Davis, is cross-posted from the Davis Enterprise.
We humans love data. We keep track of all kinds of stuff. How much rain did we get, is it more or less than “normal?” When was the last time a left-handed batter hit three home runs in a single game? And we like to know the most of everything, what is the “record” for whatever it is that is being tracked.
Some are absurd, some practical but there are also the really important ones: News that for the first time in 3 million years, on May 11, 2013, the average level of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere over an entire day was more than 400 parts per million is definitely one of them.
We have the Guinness World Records to catalogue virtually everything. In a way, this preoccupation with data describes and ties us to what is “normal.” It also describes the parameters around which we define normal by setting highs and lows, and in many instances it establishes a target for performance, something to strive to do better than. In other instances, a record can signal a warning.
The news in the past few days included references to a few records — some absurd, some practical, some important. Where these records are placed in a newspaper can give a hint as to how important we collectively attach to each record, and which category it fits into.
There have been several records falling in the last little while. The one I find to fit best into the “absurd” category actually received prime placement — the front page of our regional newspaper. And not just the front page, but the lead story, the top of the page, reserved for the biggest, most important news.
The headline read “Seattle pumps up its offer.” In our crazy world, someone, maybe more than one someone, is willing to pay a record $625 million for the Sacramento Kings. I grew up playing sports, I continue to be active in a couple, and I love watching the Kings. After all, basketball was the sport I loved the best. Still, are these people nuts? More than a half a billion dollars? But I digress (and vent). The point is that this is front-page news. Sports occupies pride of place in our day-to-day lives.
In the “practical” category, perhaps the biggest news and number from the financial world is that the Dow Jones Industrial Average “broke through” the 15,000 mark during the past week and is at an all-time high. Every day it goes up will be a new record. Apparently business is good and Wall Street is celebrating.
There were two records I would put in the “important” category.” First, global average temperature. 2012 checked in as the 12th hottest year on record. The decade 2000-09 was hotter than the decade 1990-99, which was hotter than 1980-89, etc. The number of record high temperatures versus record low temperatures has gone from being about equal over the course of history to today where record high temperatures outnumber record low temperatures two-to-one.
Tuesday’s news included reports of record-breaking high temperatures in much of Southern California, including Burbank (beating the old high temperature from 1976) and Riverside (breaking the record set in 1893 — no typo; it is 1893).
The one “record” that really caught my attention, however, was from an article buried on Page 11, along with stories about the explosion of the fertilizer plant in Texas and the Cleveland guy who kidnapped and imprisoned three young women in his house for a decade. The headline read “Carbon dioxide levels hit a scary milestone.”
For the first time in 3 million years, on May 11, 2013, the average level of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere over an entire day was more than 400 parts per million. CO2 levels fluctuate by season, and as plants absorb more CO2 during the upcoming spring and summer growing seasons, the level will once again dip below 400. But notwithstanding the annual fluctuation, the curve continues upwards and soon CO2 levels will be over 400 in readings taken any time of any day of the year.
The article points out that studies of air bubbles in ice core samples show that CO2 levels for the past million years, including the 10,000 or so years of human history, were between 180 and 280 ppm. The higher the CO2, the hotter the temperature. The article notes that since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in about 1750 when humans began converting massive amounts of fossil fuels (oil, coal) to energy, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere increased more than 40 percent
[Reaching 400 PPM] is serious business and deserves more attention than a short Page 11 article implies, especially when juxtaposed with news about a record price for a basketball team.
I know I sound like a broken record (pun intended) but this is serious business and deserves more attention than a short Page 11 article implies, especially when juxtaposed with news about a record price for a basketball team. Some scientists claim 350 ppm is the upper limit to avoid adverse impacts of climate change; others say 450.
Suffice to say that the last time the Earth was at 400 ppm, the average global temperature was 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit “warmer” (some would say “hotter”), and sea level was 60 to 80 feet higher (Davis is 52 feet above sea level).
Cool Davis is a coalition of citizens, the City of Davis, and community organizations working to empower our community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Deadline extended: One last chance to signup for our "Breathe Free with EVs" webinar tonight. @DavisCity, @SacEV, @ElectrifyAmerica, @DriveElecEvents #ndew2020
Driving on Sunshine Week - Electric Vehicle Webinar
Register Now Learn about electric vehicles through an overview presentation, expert panelists, and Q&A session! Cool Davis and the Davis Electric Vehi...
Cool Davis likes to learn where you’re coming from and if we helped you move foward with your decision-making on electric vehicles, solar, and backup battery systems. If your roof is on the older side, this is for you, too! TAKE OUR SURVEY FOR COOL PRIZES!
As the weather gets cooler, consider what can be done to adapt now for extreme heat next year! Visit http://climatereadiness.info to revisit the resources shared in this year's 2020 Heat PSA campaign. @LGC_media @cap_climate
How can we unite our communities and policymakers for effective action on #climatesolutions? Tune in Friday 10/2 for #LetsTalkClimate w/ @ecoAmerica, @Climate4Health’s @rcrehr, @BlessedTomorrow’s Ani Fête Crews, and @pathtopostive’s @JenRobertsNC Register: https://bit.ly/3ciOfj6
Last chance to register for our Breathe Free with EVs webinar (set for 5:30pm 9/30)! Learn from experts and owners alike about electric vehicles. Rebates and grants for new and used! @cityofdavis @sacev @electrifyamerica #ndew2020 https://www.cooldavis.org/civicrm/?civiwp=CiviCRM&q=civicrm%2Fevent%2Finfo&reset=1&id=140