This 90-Second Video Sums Up Our CO2 Problem
This 90-Second Video Sums Up Our CO2 Problem
By Russell McLendon / mnn.com
If the new U.S. National Climate Assessment hasn't convinced you that we're surrounded by way too much carbon dioxide, maybe this jaw-dropping data visualization can help put things in perspective.
 
"Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present."
 
That's the takeaway line from Tuesday's National Climate Assessment, a sweeping new U.S. government report on how climate change is already affecting the country. The report teems with multimedia evidence of those effects, but the mere timing of its release also highlights how wildly things are changing: April 2014 marked the first month in human history when Earth's air averaged more than 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide, the main culprit in man-made climate change.

 
Putting it that way doesn't really do justice to the scale of our CO2 problem, though. Earth's recent foray into 400 ppm isn't just unprecedented in 200,000 years of human history; it hasn't happened in at least 800,000 years, and possibly not in several million. If you're wondering why the U.S. — and much of the world — has recently experienced historic droughts, storms, heat waves and rising seas, just look up at those extra few CO2 molecules steadily squeezing into every million molecules of air.
 
Since CO2 is invisible, though, our increasingly dangerous surplus can be easy to ignore. We've all seen those "hockey stick" charts that show CO2 and temperatures soaring in recent decades, yet static graphs are a relatively subtle way to convey an already-abstract concept to non-scientists.
 
To truly appreciate how much we've already changed Earth's atmosphere — and how much we're on pace to change it even more — it helps to have a better grasp of the timing involved. And as the video below proves, a simple animation of CO2 graphs can make a world of difference. Newly released after April's 400 ppm milestone, the video turns seemingly dry data into a concise, compelling story about our species' relationship with our planet. Be sure to watch all the way to the end for the full effect:

The rise to 400 ppm of CO2 may seem slow to creatures who rarely live longer than a century, but it has been explosive by geological standards. And remixing the sky is only where the trouble begins.
 
The animation above — produced by the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder — provides some valuable context for why Earth seems to be growing moodier. For a closer look at how those mood swings are already affecting life on the surface, check out this selection of images from the new National Climate Assessment:
 
 
 
 
 
 
These images may not hit you over the head quite like an animation would, but each one follows an important thread in the big, sprawling story of climate change. And this is just a sample of what's available in the enormous 2014 National Climate Assessment. Check out the full report online for more visuals, interactive tools and other dynamic explanations of what's happening to our planet.
 
Russell McLendon is science editor at MNN. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.
4.0 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 14,284 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
Stunning Summary of US Imperialism and Native Resistance... on MSNBC!
4 min · 11,578 views today · On The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, Lawrence explains why a protest by Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us of the history American always tries to forget.
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 7,879 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
Veterans at Standing Rock Ask Forgiveness for War Crimes Against Tribal Nations
Jen Hayden · 5,577 views today · Jon Eagle Sr., Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has reported something wholly unexpected happened at the Standing Rock Reservation today. The...
Why People Cling to Old Beliefs
1 min · 4,755 views today · Cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at McGill University, Daniel Levitin, explains why people can be so stubborn when it comes to false beliefs. This behavior is...
Seven Must-Have Skills for the 21st Century
Tommy Lehe · 4,289 views today · We live in a world that moves faster than we do. Trying to keep up can be an overwhelming task that at times feels hopeless, like we are falling further and further behind—but...
Solar is Already Producing More Energy Than Oil, Says Major Scientific Review
Nafeez Ahmed · 3,472 views today · And is twice as powerful than previously thought
The Other Way of Knowing
Lilian Na’ia Alessa · 3,287 views today · Western science and Indigenous worldviews are often seen as incompatible, with the Indigenous view usually being far less valued by society at large. But an inside look at...
DREAM: A Spoken Word Meditation For When Life Is Kicking Your Ass
4 min · 2,903 views today · If life is kicking your ass and the general un-coolness of everybody on planet erf is making you want to off yourself, TALK to someone: 800-273-8255 (national suicide...
13 Crises That We All Must Face
George Monbiot · 2,888 views today · We face (at least) 13 major crises, some of which are immediate. It’s time for some hard thinking about how we confront them.
Forget Air Force One, Pentagon Wastes Billions and Billions Every Month
Nadia Prupis · 2,492 views today · President-elect Donald Trump's focus on single Boeing contract ignores enormous waste of bloated Pentagon budget
Dear Activists, Maybe It's Time to Admit That We've Got It All Wrong
Mickey Z. · 2,167 views today · “The first step in the revolution is eye contact.” - Alicen Grey
Andy Goes In - Working Undercover in a Factory Farm
10 min · 2,019 views today · He's a $10/hr farmhand, and his name isn't Andy. Andy Goes In is a compelling 10-minute documentary short about a Mercy For Animals undercover investigator. The vast majority...
How a White Supremacist Became a Civil Rights Activist
Araz Hachadourian · 1,983 views today · The story of a KKK leader’s transformation shows us that we need not live forever with the kind of violence we saw in Charleston this month.
15 Films Inspiring and Illuminating the 'New Story' Revolution
Tim Hjersted · 1,917 views today · Charles Eisenstein is one of the first people I heard talk about the "new story," synthesizing a diverse movement that has been emerging for the last several decades. When I go...
Sky Roosevelt-Morris: The Secret of Indigenous Resiliency
2 min · 1,461 views today · Activist Sky Roosevelt-Morris is of the Shawnee and White Mountain Apache Nations. She is a member of the Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado. In...
Sean Carroll - The Meaning of Life
7 min · 1,364 views today · The world keeps happening in accordance with its rules; it's up to us to make sense of it and give it value. Sean Carroll Music: Moby - God Moving Over the Face of the Waters
Satish Kumar on "What Is a Sacred Place?"
3 min · 1,285 views today · Satish Kumar brings a Hindu, Buddhist and Jain perspective to the definition of "sacred place." We found his explanation so compelling that we edited a three-minute piece...
Amanda Abbington Introduces iAnimal - 42 Days in the Life of Chickens
4 min · 1,187 views today · Shot undercover in British factory farms and slaughterhouses, this immersive 360° video gives you a birds-eye view of what happens to chicken from farm to plate.
Embracing 'Radical Hope' in Our Fight to Save the Earth
Paul Hoggett · 1,012 views today · Radical hope is not just about determination and courage in the face of darkness, writes Paul Hoggett - it is also about love and a re-finding of all that is benign in the...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
This 90-Second Video Sums Up Our CO2 Problem