earthstonestation enviro-news

This has been an interesting week with two important news reports about the environment being published. Both are reports about a first – one bad, one good.


The First report from Hawaii could affect every living thing on the planet.

New Mexico 007The second report from New Mexico will affect the quality of life at my home the Lower Farm.


The Bad: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Levels Approach Record High 400ppm

For the first time in human history, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide could rise above 400 parts per million throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere as soon as May 2013.

The latest CO2 measurement was taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory on the Big Island, Hawaii and reported by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

CO2 average

The primary site for the Mauna Loa Observatory and its carbon dioxide sampling equipment is located at the 11,000 ft level on the island of Hawaii. The Weather Bureau founded the observatory in 1956 to gain access to clean, particle-free air when it could not find a suitable site in the continental U.S.


The carbon dioxide data , on Mauna Loa constitute the longest record of direct measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere. They were started by C. David Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in March of 1958 at a facility of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA started its own CO2 measurements in May of 1974, and they have run in parallel with those made by Scripps since then.

Monthly mean atmospheric carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii

Mauna Loa CO2

About 80 percent of human-induced CO2 emissions come from burning fossil fuels, according to NOAA, and about 20 percent come from deforestation and certain farming practices. Since people began widely burning coal, petroleum and other fossil fuels two centuries ago, the Industrial Revolution is generally deemed the starting point for today’s ongoing CO2 surge and associated climate change.
The looming milestone at Mauna Loa isn’t the first modern 400 ppm measurement — NOAA reported CO2 levels just above 400 ppm at sites in the Arctic last year. But since Arctic CO2 has historically risen faster than in other parts of the planet, it’s not necessarily a reliable marker for global concentrations. Mauna Loa, on the other hand, is considered the most accurate place to assess how much CO2 is in the sky worldwide.

     The above graphic charts carbon dioxide levels for the past 800,000 years.  The most recent analysis of air trapped in Antarctic ice allows us to look back at least 800,000 years.  During that time, we have gone through numerous ice ages and interglacial periods.  Temperatures have been both hotter and colder than today.  Yet, at no time have the carbon dioxide levels exceeded 300 ppm; that is until recently.
     The 400 ppm threshold will be fleeting at first, since summertime plant growth in the Northern Hemisphere will soon begin soaking up more CO2 from the air. This phenomenon underlies the seasonal variability seen throughout the Keeling curve’s history, but it’s a cold comfort. The MLO’s late-summer low in CO2 levels tends to catch up with the springtime high after four or five years, so there may be year-round concentrations above 400 ppm as soon as 2017. That hasn’t happened since the Pliocene, a warm geologic era that lasted from about 5.3 million years ago to 2.6 million years ago.
     Average temperatures were about 18 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in the Pliocene than today, scientists estimate, and sea levels were between 16 and 131 feet higher. The extra warmth trapped by rising levels of CO2 — just one of several greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — is also linked to stronger storms, longer droughts and an array of other climatic and ecological crises. Excess CO2 is also absorbed by Earth’s oceans, which are becoming more acidic and thus less hospitable to coral, crustaceans and other wildlife.
     Renowned climate scientist James Hansen reported in 2009 that any CO2 level above 350 ppm can spur dangerous warming. The former NASA scientist previously stated that 350 parts per million (ppm) was the “magic number,” the level beyond which long term climatic changes will be unleashed with catastrophic consequences for human civilization.  The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates  450ppm is when the worst effects of climate change will begin.
    “The 400-ppm threshold is a sobering milestone,” says Tim Lueker, an oceanographer and carbon-cycle researcher with Scripps. “[It] should serve as a wakeup call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it’s too late for our children and grandchildren.”


The Good News:  Mora County the first in the country to ban drilling and fracking.

On Moday April 29th the County Commission of Mora County, located in Northeastern New Mexico, became the first county in the United States to pass an ordinance banning all oil and gas extraction.  The new county ordinance also established a local Bill of Rights that confirms the county’s right to clean air and water, a healthy environment, and self governance.

New Mexico 043

The process of “fracking” starts by drilling a mile or more vertically, then outward laterally into 500-million-year-old shale formations, the remains of oceans that once flowed over parts of North America. Millions of gallons of chemical and sand-laced water are then propelled into the ground at high pressures, fracturing the shale and forcing the methane it contains out. With the release of that gas come thousands of gallons of contaminated water. This “flowback” fluid contains the original fracking chemicals, plus heavy metals and radioactive material that also lay safely buried in the shale.

Communities across the country are facing drilling and fracking.  Fracking brings significant environmental impacts including the production of millions of gallons of toxic wastewater, which can affect drinking water and waterways.

“Everyone understands the drought that New Mexico is currently in,” Commission Chairman John Olivas said. “Our acequias and our irrigation canals are dry, so the whole idea is resource protection.”

Drafted with assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), the Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance establishes a local Bill of Rights – including a right to clean air and water, a right to a healthy environment, and the rights of nature – while prohibiting activities which would interfere with those rights, including oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” for shale gas.

CELDF Executive Director Thomas Linzey, Esq., explained, “Existing state and federal oil and gas laws force fracking and other extraction activities into communities, overriding concerns of residents.  Today’s vote in Mora County is a clear rejection of this structure of law which elevates corporate rights over community rights, which protects industry over people and the natural environment.”

County Commissioner John Olivas stated: “There are plenty of resources out there for natural gas. I don’t think it’s necessary for them to come into our community. Leave us alone. Let us enjoy what we have.”

Commissioner Alfonso Griego said “he supported the measure because he feels that federal and state laws fail to adequately protect communities from the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.” He also stated: “They just come in and do whatever is necessary for them to make profits. There is technology for them to do it right, but it’s going to cost them more money. They’re not willing to do that yet. So we don’t want any oil and gas extraction in the county of Mora. It’s beautiful here.”

The tipping point in climate change is very near at hand. The choices that you and I make now will affect generations to come. Please consider your actions carefully. Where and how you spend your dollars has tremendous influence, do it wisely. How you vote in local and national elections can insure there is a future for our children, grandchildren and all the other species that inhabit the Earth.

Peace, Dohn

About earthstonestation

promoting environmental education, protecting all species and preserving the wild places with art, music and storytelling.
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17 Responses to earthstonestation enviro-news

  1. McEff says:

    Fracking is about to take off in Britain in a big way. Apparently, fracturing the earth’s crust, filling it with pollutants and upping CO2 levels will be good for the economy and we will all benefit. Like the man said: “They just come in and do whatever is necessary for them to make profits.”
    Keep it up, Dohn.

    • mabbsonsea says:

      If only we had stronger and more localised government here in UK, local people might be able to see off the energy corporations and the central government that is in their pockets & idealogically obsessed with growth anyway. I hope Mora county is able to stand firm and maybe give a lead on this. I wonder if we will only change our consumption of energy & manufactured stuff when peak oil out-prices us, but it might be less painful to start changing our habits now.

      • pendantry says:

        Peak oil has already started to bite where it matters: the monstrosity that is the Athabasca tar sands and the lunacy that is fracking are the signs of a civilisation biting off its nose to spite its face. I fear that once we start down the fracking road, there’s no turning back.

  2. misscorinne says:

    Great news about your county banning fracking. I live upstate NY (near Canada) and there is HUGE debate going on just south of us, in the Ithaca area, about fracking – People and protests on both sides of the issue constantly clashing. Luckily, we have a governor who doesn’t bow to special interest groups, no matter how unpopular that might be in the game of politics. Currently, nothing is moving forward until all the facts are in, which is making the pro-frackers very nervous, obviously…

  3. There is no planet B. Thanks for commenting, appreciated.

  4. TamrahJo says:

    #1 Sobering and wonder what kind of tales will be made up to discredit these numbers?
    #2 Congratulations! I’m so happy for you – I fear I may have to leave where I live in the coming years, as many community members have chosen to sign ‘exploratory rental contracts’ with fracking companies – – sigh….

    • There are definitely some real hazards that accompany hydrolic fracturing companies moving in. One precaution is to have your water base line tested before operations begin. This way at least there is a positive record of what your water quality was before…
      Good luck.

  5. Thank you for sharing this.

  6. This information from Hawii is really quite frightening, and the sad thing is, that everyone will just carry on as normal.
    Wonderful that your homelands are now protected…will there be something like a gold rush with peole moving in to live in a clean environment I wonder!

    • The county is very rural and any metropolitan areas are distant. Mostly ranching, forestry and some agriculture. The area is pristine and as yet we do not have 1 stop light in the entire county. I’m OK with that.

  7. Cathy says:

    A great post again – thanks Dohn.

  8. I don’t understand why people don’t care or even realize what is happening to the ONLY home they have. Earth is it and if we don’t take care of her, we will be evicted for good. Thank you for the information.

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