On the 10th of May 2013, the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii announced that the average CO2 concentration in the atmosphere crossed the threshold of 400ppm (parts per million).
Atmospheric levels of CO2 have been steadily rising for 200 years, ever since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
"The crossing of the 400ppm threshold is one of the last wake up calls we will get," says Tristen Taylor, Project Coordinator at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg.
"This threshold is quite sobering as we are more and more facing the fact that climate change will not be restricted to a rise in temperatures of 2° Celsius."
As South Africa is currently generating most of its electricity by burning coal, the country is a also major emitter of CO2 and heavily contributing to climate change.
The South African Department for Environmental Affairs acknowledges the accepted position that a temperatures should not rise above 2° Celsius in order to avoid catastrophic climate change.
However, South Africa still relies heavily on the burning of fossil fuels and the government is planning to continue do so even in the medium term, or as Makoma Lekalakala, Programme Officer at Earthlife Africa Jhb, states:
"We need to act now. We need to start shifting towards clean and renewable energy technology and drastically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases - otherwise we will bring our livelihoods even closer to collapse."
The poor are hit the hardest by the negative effects of climate change: disrupted water supplies and flash floods, longer and more intense heat waves and negative health impacts affecting employment opportunities as well as food security. Tristen Taylor states:
"Instead of moving forward combining South Africa's development agenda with the mitigation of climate change, the government still tries to address these as unassociated issues.
Job creation and poverty eradication need to result from the mitigation of climate change - as green jobs in a sustainable and developing country. The costs of adapting to climate change are far greater than the costs of mitigating it."
Mauna Loa station has been monitoring CO2 levels since 1958. Each year, the recorded concentration of CO2 at Mauna Loa rises and falls in a sawtooth fashion, with the next year higher than the year before.
The peak of the sawtooth typically comes in May. Check this link for the up-to-date weekly average CO2 at Mauna Loa.
Project Coordinator, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg
Office: 011 339 3662
Cell: 084 250 2434
Email: tristen (at) earthlife.co.za
Programme Officer, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg
Office: 011 339 3662
Cell: +27 82 682 9177
Email: makoma (at) earthlife.org.za