A reflection for Earth Day 2022

As National Earth Day approaches us this Friday, Deborah Colvin has shared with us some important numbers and facts to help us take action!

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Action on climate change is often communicated in terms of the drive to keep the rise in global temperature to less than 1.5 degrees below pre-industrial levels. Based on current global commitments this is now impossible. We know this temperature increase is being driven by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, but you’d have to search beyond the mainstream news bulletins to find out the actual amount of CO2 in the air. Measurement is knowledge is power. And communicating measurements, by sharing knowledge, empowers widely. Here are some important numbers:

The afore-mentioned pre-industrial level of atmospheric CO2 was around 285 parts per million.

Earth Day is celebrated on 22 April each year.

In 1970 when the Earth Day initiative was born, CO2 averaged 325 parts per million. We knew what was happening.

350ppm is the widely agreed ‘safe’ number for a stable biosphere.

387ppm was notched up by 2009. A new worldwide movement – 350.org – was formed to try and persuade the powers to get the number back down.

On Earth Day’s 50th birthday in 2020, CO2 was 414ppm

Post-pandemic, the rate at which CO2 is being added to the atmosphere is increasing, rather than heading downward towards net zero.

This week, in mid-April 2022, the number is 419ppm

Also this week over 400 people have died in climate-induced flooding in South Africa, and the UK government has proposed new oil and gas exploration.


Action: Have a look at the Earth Day website for inspiration https://www.earthday.org/

Action: Lobby the BBC to report climate in the same depth and detail as they report the weather – instead of celebrating unseasonal heat, tell us about long-term trends and the dangers these pose for biodiversity, agriculture, water security.

Action: Why not declare your birth year CO2 concentration. Like declaring your pronouns as an act of visibility and solidarity, declaring your birth CO2 makes visible a history and trajectory of climate injustice, and says ‘I know this, and in solidarity with the whole earth, I resist it’: Deborah Colvin, born at 318ppm.