Political gridlock is a stubborn bottleneck—and time is running out. Average annual greenhouse gas emissions grew faster from 2000 to 2010 than during the previous three decades, according to a 2014 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A major finding of the report is that the strategies are at hand to begin controlling emissions, but at an estimated 1 or 2 percent of annual global economic output by midcentury, mitigation costs will not be cheap.
Nevertheless, David Victor, professor at the UC San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS), director of the school’s new Laboratory on International Law and Regulation, and a leading contributor to the IPCC, remains optimistic. New US and international policy strategies can help to fix the problem—by spurring governments, grassroots organizations, and the general public to take the necessary mitigation steps. That was his message to the San Diego community when he delivered the fifth annual Keeling Lecture in 2014 at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The lecture series honors the memory of Scripps geochemist Charles David Keeling, who established the Keeling Curve in 1958 that continues to measure carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. His son Ralph Keeling, also a Scripps geochemist, is currently in charge of the project.
On May 9, 2013, for the first time since Keeling Curve measurements began, the daily mean concentration of carbon dioxide (CO₂) in the atmosphere of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm). In 2014, it happened two months earlier—in March, and on January 1, 2015, concentrations ushered in the New Year at the 400 mark. The earlier occurrence of this benchmark number each year is yet another ominous sign that humans are changing Earth’s climate at an accelerated rate.
In 2014, more than fourteen thousand students from around the world logged on for an innovative MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on global climate change. Scientists from UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography collaborated with UC San Diego Extension to offer “Climate Change in Four Dimensions.” The ten-week course included nineteen video lectures by distinguished UC San Diego professors Charles Kennel, Richard Somerville, and David Victor. An additional presentation featured Scripps Oceanography climate and atmospheric scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan. Each course was followed by more than fourteen thousand students around the world.