Parts per million

Aug 24, 2023 420 ppm

I've added labels to dates on this website that show the global average atmospheric CO2 levels at that time. Today is August 24th, 2023 420 ppm

Ppm is short for “parts-per-million,” the unit used for measuring CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Humans have increased this number significantly since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the mid 18th century 280 ppm, mainly by burning fossil fuels. Learn more.

I first saw dates connected to ppm CO2 levels on the social media bios of climate activists: “Greta Thunberg, born at 375ppm.” Adding this data to my website is far from activism. I care deeply about the climate crisis and consider it in most of my decision making, but most of my past work has not been explicitly connected to the issue. I'm not sure making eco-art in the future would be my most useful contribution, either.

For now, it's simply interesting to me to connect the brief history of my artistic practice (since 396 ppm) to the most urgent crisis unfolding in my lifetime. I'm reflecting on my past work and what I want to make in the future. The climate crisis already colors that thinking but the little number makes it all the more tangible.

Written at 420 ppm.

P.S. — I created a simple API to fetch this data from NOAA, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It's open source on Github and entirely based on static files to be the least carbon-intensive.