My Fridays-for-Future project: Monitoring the CO₂ in the atmosphere to stay aware of Earth’s most important metric

Today thousands of students of the Fridays-for-Future movement are on strike. They protest for more aggressive action against climate change. Formally I am not a student anymore, but I consider myself a life-long learner and student of life as well. So here is my student-contribution for global awareness of the CO₂ crisis.

Climatologist Glen Peters (@Peters_Glen) tweeted a few days ago:

He quoted a climatologist from a documentary about global warming and CO₂. Their point is: We are already far beyond the point where we could stop climate change (and its bad effects on us) just by emitting less CO₂ and planting millions of trees.

A problem with no easy solutions

Before we invented the steam engine and started to burn coal, oil and gas the CO₂ concentration in the atmosphere was about 280 ppm for ages. Scientists said it should remain 350 ppm to stay out of trouble. We are now at 412 ppm and the current global goal (agreed 2009 in the Copenhagen Agreement) is to stay below 450 ppm (that’s only 0,045% of the air) in order to keep warming of the planet below 2°C and avoid serious problems. If we don’t change our emissions we will reach 450 ppm already in ~15 years, because we are adding ~2.5 ppm every year.

This problem is gigantic and global

Our civilization is so much based on carbon-emitting technologies and we are actually still speeding up emissions, just look at this (scary) graph:

How do we get this graph back to zero in just a few decades? Some experts say that the world needs a mobilization effort beyond the scale of what the allied countries did to end WW2, with millions of people working an this.

We are clearly not anywhere close to that! Because leaders around the globe don’t do their job. That’s why Greta Thunberg and thousands of students are on strike.

We have three basic concepts to solve the issue, and none of them will be enough, we need to do all of them at once:

  • Use energy more efficiently and change industrial processes to emit less CO₂. FAST.
  • Stop using energy that is based on pre-historic carbon at all and switch to renewable energy. QUICKLY.
  • Remove CO₂ from the atmosphere (“Carbon Capturing”)

What does a 2° increase mean for the planet and us? This interactive website has compiled data for temperatures, rainfall, sea level, storms, etc.: Carbon Brief: The impacts of climate change at 1.5° C, 2° C and beyond.

For the next few decades a 2° C increase means:

  • Sea level rise of up to 96 cm in 2100 (Maldives, Bangladesh!)
  • 30% more acidity in the oceans as early as 2050 (corals!)
  • 25% more hot days per year
  • substantial changes for crops, forests, etc. everywhere
  • $11 tn of annual global damages by sea level rise and flooding in 2100
  • plus displaced people, refugees, and fighting over water resources

You get the message. We wouldn’t want even that, but that’s already our hard-to-reach target! And it shouldn’t get any worse than that!

Rising awareness for CO2 – Every Day

The basic idea for this blog post is: Let’s all put the current concentration of CO₂ on every dashboard and computer status screen that we look at often, so again and again we are reminded of the current situation.

So this is what my home dashboard (powered by PRTG) looks like:

This sensor is always in yellow “warning” state, so every time someone is looking at the dashboard he/she will be reminded of the situation.

How does it work?

I am using a custom sensor for PRTG that pulls the current CO₂ levels from an API. The source of the data are measurements taken on the Mauna Loa Observatory located on a remote volcano in Hawaii.

The data is updated once per day, so the sensor actually gets the data only once per day (to avoid overloading the API) and uses that result for the rest of the day, regardless of the sensor interval you choose.

Here is what you need to do to get this working in PRTG:

  • Download the file globalco2xml.exe from the PRTG Tools Family website
  • Copy the file into the EXEXML subfolder of your PRTG installation
  • Create a new Custom EXEXML Sensor in PRTG and select the globalco2xml.exe file

When the sensor has been created select “Scan now” from its context menu twice (the first run will give back the value of 450 to set up the gauges properly, subsequent runs will return the actual current value).

Now you have a global CO₂ sensor which you can put on your dashboards:

Spread the awareness!

Author: Dirk Paessler

CEO Carbon Drawdown Initiative -- VP Negative Emissions Platform -- Founder and Chairman Paessler AG

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