Most people have heard of Bill McKibben’s organization 350.org. The name comes from the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – 350 parts per million. When you climb above that figure, you trigger climate change.
In her article “How the World Passed a Carbon Threshold and Why it Matters” (Yale Environment 360, 1/26/2017), journalist Nicola Jones reports that in 2016, Earth’s atmosphere broke a startling record, climbing above 400 ppm of carbon dioxide for the first time in several million years. When scientists first started measuring atmospheric CO2 consistently in 1958, the level at the Mauna Loa mountaintop observatory was 316 ppm.
When we think of air thick with carbon, we think of downtown Los Angeles or the inversion layer above the Central Valley. We don’t think of our beautiful Central Coast, which surely is as pristine as a Hawaiian mountaintop, right?
Richard E.T. Sadowski and Brom Webb of Home Front Morro Bay Environmental Justice, an organization sponsored by Ecologistics, decided maybe it was time to check. None of the air monitoring being performed by the Air Pollution Control District included measuring CO2. They applied for and received a grant from the City of Morro Bay to conduct a yearlong study to establish baseline reading around the Morro Bay Estuary. A portable monitoring device was purchased from a New Zealand company which arrived in February and Brom and Richard have been busy collecting data. Turns out our air quality isn’t as immaculate as we hoped. Driving around SLO County, they got readings of 466 ppm CO2 at the corner of Spring and 6th Streets in Paso Robles, 431 ppm at Atascadero’s Centennial Plaza, and 436 ppm at the Marigold Center in SLO. Even outside the Ecologistics headquarters at Sweet Springs Nature Preserve in Los Osos, swept by cool ocean breezes, the reading was 420 ppm.
Yes, folks, it’s happening here. If our beautiful corner of the world isn’t safe, nowhere is safe. No more head in the sand. It’s time to act now. For ideas on how you can do your part check out the Earth Day web site.