Atmospheric greenhouse gases are a bit of an abstraction. We can’t see them, we can’t smell them, and we can’t immediately tell when there is a change in concentration.
The site CO2Now is trying to change that by showing current data for atmospheric CO2 and helping people understand the relationship between current trends of rising CO2 levels and the effects of climate change. “The site puts atmospheric CO2 out in front where it needs to be,” says website founder Michael McGee. “It’s a simple thing that no other website is doing. I started posting atmospheric CO2 data in December 2007 when I realized it was a way I could add value to the climate conversation.”
The site also helps explain the factors that effect climate, the relationship between climate and weather and the effects of climate change like ocean acidification and reductions in global land ice. “Atmospheric CO2 is a big picture metric that hardly gets talked about outside of scientific circles,” adds McGee. “CO2Now.org was created so anyone on the internet can see the changes in the atmosphere as they happen. It presents the trend information so people can see whether or not we are doing enough to end global warming.”
The site does not get involved in the politics and policy of climate change, but instead focuses on data and information. McGee is particularly proud that the site is helping to disseminate current CO2 data in the form of widgets that update each month and that have been added to over a hundred websites in the last few months.
A new project of CO2Now, the CO2 Speaker’s Corner, seeks to further engage people in talking about carbon data. CO2 Speaker’s Corner is a video log about atmospheric CO2. Participants submit videos of themselves talking about the worldwide effects of climate change, what needs to be done, and concrete examples of what people are doing to address it. They also incorporate the current CO2 data. People are encouraged to watch the videos and then upload their own video replies at YouTube and Vimeo.
“Monitoring the monthly updates for atmospheric CO2 is as exciting as watching paint dry,” says McGee, “and as frustrating as watching wet paint get wetter. With atmospheric CO2, the data keeps moving in the wrong direction. So, the CO2 Speaker’s Corner was just added to CO2Now.org to try and make the subject more engaging and interactive, and more hopeful as well. It is an attempt to get ordinary people, and climate policy makers too, put more of their attention on this important subject.”
The first video log features Maeve Gauthier, a graduate student in Marine Biology at the University of Victoria, speaking from Danko Island in Antarctica where she is participating in a program called Students on Ice:
McGee is pleased with the reactions the video is getting. “When people watch someone in a video giving a brief report on the latest CO2 data, it shows that people are paying attention to the data and connecting it with observed changes like the dramatic thinning of the arctic sea ice, or with the acidification of the oceans. I hope this online speaker’s corner becomes a medium for informed dialogue and the sharing of informative videos that helps push ‘atmospheric CO2’ into the centre of the climate conversation.”
The CO2 Speaker’s Corner was also conceived as a way to help rally support for discussing an atmospheric greenhouse gas target at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December and sees the site as a way to engage people in the efforts of people like Al Gore, James Hansen and Bill McKibben who are trying to establish that ceiling at 350 parts per million.
Says McGee, “it makes no sense that a UN body with an ultimate objective of stabilizing atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases would have no concrete target for atmospheric CO2 or any other greenhouse gas. The absence of such a global target is preventing 6.7 billion people from working in the same direction to make the atmosphere and planet a safer place. Perhaps the CO2 Speaker’s Corner is a personal attempt to help nudge things in a direction that is more hopeful and sane.”