Giovanni Bartolotta

The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a new record in May, reaching “a level not seen in a million years”, prompting APS Chief Risk Officer Giovanni Bartolotta to reflect on the “sad truth” of climate change.

“While we try and micro-manage climate risk (taxonomy, PAI and all that jazz),” he said in a social media post, “the sad truth is that CO2 in the atmosphere breaks record after record every month.”

Commenting on the new record broken in May 2023, when carbon dioxide parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere reached 422 ppm, Mr Bartolotta noted that this level has not been seen “in a million years”, adding: “literally – in the last million years CO2 fluctuated between 200 and 300 ppm – alternating ice ages and periods of global warming).”

The remarkable levels of the greenhouse gas now present in the Earth’s atmosphere leads the risk expert to “think that this process is irreversible, regardless of our micro-managing of the risk.”

With no solution likely to be possible, “a long vision on adaptation is where humankind should focus its efforts,” he argued.

The level of carbon dioxide identified as a safe upper limit to avoid a climate tipping point is 350 ppm, a level passed in 1986, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the world has agreed to try to limit the rise in global temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius more than levels in the latter half of the 19th century, and preferably limiting it further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The World Meteorological Organisation regularly gives an estimate of the chances that the world breaks the 1.5 degree treshold, most recently saying that there is a 66 per cent chance it would be broken over the next five years.

If the average global temperature gets over 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter than the second half of the 19th century, before industrial production and emissions really had an effect on global temperatures, scientists say that many parts of the Earth can expect to experience significantly more extreme weather events.

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