A Driver’s Guide to Understanding Atmospheric CO2 Levels

Fuel up your car, print out the map below and head out to the intersection of 120th Street and 68th Avenue in Surrey, BC.

Face east. Imagine yourself at a time in history over three ices ages ago. Off in the distance, King George Boulevard represents today, and the distance between where you are now and King George Boulevard represents 400 thousand years.

Face south. Imagine that atmospheric CO2 levels around you are at approximately 300 parts per million (ppm). Off in the distance, 64th Avenue represents 180ppm. Over the next 400 thousand years, the natural cycle of atmospheric CO2 will remain between the 300ppm and 180ppm.

OK, now follow the map and start driving.

As you proceed, you will see stickers on various surfaces marked “Level of atmospheric CO2, May 2017: 406.31ppm.” You can follow them.

Oh, I should have mentioned this earlier. If, at the time you’re doing this, NASA has updated the reading of current atmospheric CO2 levels on their website “Vital Signs of the Planet,” maybe you could print off some new labels and stick them up as you go. This will make it easier for the next person. Thanks.

You will notice that it is impossible to stay on paved roads for the entire route. This means that you will have to drive through back alleys, across parks, and even over a few backyards. But who gives a shit, you’re in a car.

By the time you’ve gone two blocks east to 122 Street, you will be at 64th Avenue. Two blocks is equivalent to about 50,000 years. That means that it took about 50,000 years for the atmospheric CO2 levels to drop from the near highest levels of 300ppm to near lowest levels of 180ppm.

50,000 years. That’s quite a long time, hey?

Now crank the wheel, punch it, and head back up 122 Street. I left some rubber on the road here that you might still be able to see if you look closely enough.

From here, you’ll careen back and forth between 68 and 64 Avenue following the CO2 levels of the last three glacial cycles.

I won’t bore you with the details, other than to say that the guy at 66 Avenue and 124A Street is probably still pissed off about what I did to his lawn, and driving through a lacrosse game at Tamamawis Park is more difficult than you might think. You might want to make a few small detours.

At some point, you will lurch out of a housing complex back on to 64 Avenue less than a block west of King George Boulevard. You are about to complete the final leg of your journey. There is a gas station right at King George Boulevard if you need to gas up. I totally recommend having a full tank for this last bit.

Start heading north again. Slowly at first, as the housing complex that you’re going through has lots of kids. Nothing will slow your progress down more than getting small children caught up in your axles.

Around 65 Avenue, you should start to speed up, as you’ll have to go through some sensitive environmental areas. It is boggy, but with enough speed you’ll be fine.

When you cross 67 Avenue, step on the gas. On your 400 thousand year journey, this is about when the Industrial Revolution started and we began our collective fossil fuel frenzy. You’ll be heading pretty much due north from here.

As you hurtle into the intersection at 68th Avenue and King George Boulevard, here are few things to think about. Don’t slow down, you can read and drive at the same time.

Stay on the far left side of the sidewalk. Yes, you’ll be heading into pedestrians and oncoming traffic, but it is really important that you stay on the sidewalk for the message of this next bit to get through your thick skull.

This spot is equivalent to the year 1950, and atmospheric CO2 levels are already at their historic high of 300ppm. Now hit the gas.

At this point, local law enforcement may have been tipped off about your little escapade, so let’s just get this over with.

Speed north all the way past 72nd Avenue. That represents a rise in atmospheric CO2 levels of over 100ppm. If you’ve been following instructions properly, you’re also still on the sidewalk. That’s because this rise of 100ppm took place in just over 50 years. OK, you can take your foot off the gas now.

Stop at the KFC just north of 72nd Avenue. It is June, 2017 and the level of atmospheric CO2 is over 406ppm.

KFC has some hearty menu options that will fill you up and help you forget how you got here. Dig in.


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