Saturday, January 1, 2000

Atmospheric CO2 Over Time

Updated 8/19/09

Quoting award winning Princeton University physicist Dr. Will Happer:
“Many people don’t realize that over geological time, we’re really in a CO2 famine now.”
Atmospheric CO2 Over Time
Click the chart to enlarge it:

Click the chart to enlarge it
I created the above chart.

Data Sources:

Current CO2 level (387 ppm at the time the chart was created):
This NOAA page.

CO2 by 2100 - IPCC Absolute Worst Case Scenario (790 ppm):
IPCC 2007 Synthesis Report, Page 67, Table 5.1.

Historic CO2 levels:
R.A. Berner, 2001 (GEOCARB III), as published in the American Journal of Science, Vol. 301, February 2001, P.182-204.

The raw data from the above peer reviewed science was taken from this file downloaded from this NOAA page.

I followed the instructions contained in Geocarb III for translating RCO2 into ppm.

Atmospheric CO2 Over Time
Combined With Temperature Over Time
Click the chart to learn more:

Click the chart to learn more

Data Sources:

Historic CO2 levels:
The same source as the previous chart.
Note: The above chart somehow calculated lower CO2 ppm levels than I did. But, I followed the instructions contained in Geocarb III to the letter.

Historic Temperatures:
The Paleomap Project by Dr. C.R. Scotese, a PhD geologist at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Now, look back 460 million years ago and explode the MYTH that we are on the precipice of some mythical “tipping point” of unstoppable and catastrophic global warming. The FACT is that the Ordovician Ice Age climate was very similar to THE CURRENT ICE AGE!

One reason we never reach this mythical “tipping point” is because every additional molecule of CO2 has exponentially LESS warming effect than the one which preceded it. Even the alarmists acknowledge this. CO2 absorbs energy at specific and relatively narrow wavelengths. Once all the energy at those wavelengths is absorbed, additional CO2 has NO IMPACT! This is best illustrated by three different approximations of the total warming impact of CO2 from 0ppm to 600ppm (roughly double pre-industrial levels and roughly 1.6 times current levels). The previous two links, are from this page. For more on that, see this discussion of Climate Sensitivity.

As this post demonstrates, it is reasonable to assume that the industrial revolution has increased atmospheric CO2 by about 86ppm. In order to reach the roughly 5,000ppm present during the Ordovician Ice Age, we would have to replicate the entire industrial revolution 54 times over! (5,000-386)/86=54. Obviously, that is not going to happen.

Many fret about the impact of CO2 on “biodiversity”. Well, 530 million years ago, when CO2 was about 22 times higher than today, the world experienced the single largest explosion in biodiversity this planet has EVER seen! That explosion is known as The Cambrian Explosion. Click here and here and here for substantiations.

Return to Climate Change 101


Anonymous said...

You might also want to explain to your readers that O2 is pollutant from the stromatolites!

That stumps them.

SBVOR said...

Anonymous (Nov 12, 2009 1:30:00 PM)

Actually, I already have:

“About 2.4 billion years ago, this planet experienced something often described as the ‘Oxygen Catastrophe’ (aka ‘The Great Oxidation’). This so-called ‘catastrophe’ was created when ‘evolving lifeforms [sic] developed oxyphotosynthesis’. That new oxygen producing capability initially produced limited quantities of oxygen. But with time ‘this oxygen accumulated and eventually caused an ecological crisis to the biodiversity of the time, as oxygen was toxic to the microscopic anaerobic organisms dominant then.’.

Oxygen -- previously a mere trace element -- now makes up about 21% of our atmosphere (and, CO2 accounts for less than 0.04%). I suppose we are fortunate in that those organisms which caused such ‘catastrophic’ changes to our atmosphere did not possess the ‘intelligence’ (or lack thereof) to create a movement hell bent on eliminating their impact on the environment.”

In the more detailed overview, that post is linked to under the title:
“OMG! CHANGE! Save me!”

But, thank you for -- quite appropriately -- drawing attention to it in this post.

Anonymous said...

The sun is 2% warmer today than ancient events you are talking about! That means there's 2% more energy hitting our atmosphere to tip our fragile climate over into a new phase.

Also, Royal Society concluded that:

"Our results provide the first clear evidence that global climate may explain substantial variation in the fossil record in a simple and consistent manner. Our findings may have implications for extinction and biodiversity change under future climate warming.

Royal Society

But don't let a little thing like the world's oldest and most prestigious scientific body get in your way of a good ideological RANT. How many National Academies of Science agree with you that there's no AGW? Whisper it in my ear again?

SBVOR said...


1) Your solar energy canard has already been discussed and debunked.

Click here for the beginning of the discussion.

2) Your Royal Society citation offers nothing more than speculation.

Climate changes all the time -- often quite dramatically (and without ANY help from humans). It stands to reason that some will benefit and some will not. Your camp loves to ignore the Cambrian Explosion (at a time when CO2 levels were about 22 times higher than today & temperatures were about 10C warmer than today). Your camp also loves to harp on certain isolated PETM extinctions. But, what about the PETM explosion in forest biodiversity? Inconvenient, eh?

Like I said…
Change happens. Some benefit and some do not. It’s the natural order.

3) As you well know, AGW is not the issue, CAGW is.

Click here for a rational assessment of the extremely minor issue of CO2 driven AGW.

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