Scientists announced recently that we hit the tipping point of 400 parts per million. I’m talking about the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. Of course, climate change has been bandied about so much that almost immediately the eyes begin to glaze over when the subject comes up. Someone in the crowd starts talking about global warming and it’s received like the kid in class who reminds the teacher that no homework was assigned.

But it is a little scary to think about it because we’re already seeing the effects of the higher temperatures both on weather and arctic ice. A cry for help is heard from some of the island nations in the Pacific whose land mass is shrinking fast, already to the point that people are being permanently evacuated. The hurricanes haven’t so much increased in frequency as they are multiplying in power. Severe destruction from storms has moved from once or twice in a decade to once every other year. Tornadoes are also increasing in number, ferocity and location. We can’t seem to go a month without extreme weather being a news focus, and we are right now swinging into tornado season with hurricane season hot on its heels. All of this is because the sun’s heat is not being reflected back into space as it once was. Greenhouse effect caused by carbon dioxide is the reason for the heating.

But what doesn’t get talked about a lot is the effect that the heightened carbon dioxide is having on health. People afflicted with breathing disorders like asthma and COPD are suffering more, and the effects of the heat on the elderly is another source of adverse health effects. People are being hastened to their death. What does get talked about, and to the point that no one even hears it anymore, is that 400 ppm is the level from which there is no going back. If the scientists are right, and it’s surely looking like they are, we have reached the point where “flywheel effect” is going to hasten the damaging changes significantly. The worse it gets, the worse it will get. As it does, the victim count rises.

And that’s it. That’s the message. It isn’t a big message or a complex one –although examples of coming events can be debated and discussed ad nauseum. It is true that “carbon footprints” are being reduced now, it’s not like nothing is being done. The problem is that we waited too long and spent our time debating and discussing instead of doing the things we’re just now getting around to. Further discussion of the problem isn’t necessary or productive. The conversation needs to be about what we are doing now and how we can do more of it so that we can slow the worsening of the ecological changes, and the unavoidable tolls they will take.

A short message today, but sometimes the biggest things come in the smallest containers. Like parts per million.


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