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Carbon Dioxide, an Autobiography: #CO2andMe


September, 1975

My parents are married by a Justice of the Peace in Davidson County, North Carolina. My dad is working for both Thomasville Furniture and Wall Trucking while my mom works in the office of her father’s plumbing business. They live in a trailer on a friend’s property. My dad still drives a Dodge Dart.

Gerald Ford is president. An earthquake has just devastated Turkey. Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd and Prisoner in Disguise by Linda Ronstadt are released. The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is 328 parts per million (ppm).


February, 1981

My mom is driving a Jeep CJ-7 that she loves. It’s sporty. It’s fun. She sells it later this year after I am born. My dad traded in the sports car for a truck. My mom’s father passes away later in the year.

Ronald Reagan is president. Hinckley hasn’t yet tried to impress Jodie Foster and Frank Sinatra has just been cleared of allegations of connections to organized crime. The AIDS pandemic begins in the US. Both Phil Collins and Billy Idol go solo. CO2 is at 340 ppm.


Jeep CJ models are both a series and a range of small, open-bodied off-road vehicles and compact pickup trucks, built and sold by several successive incarnations of the Jeep automobile marque from 1945 to 1986.


November, 1984

My grandfather is still farming tobacco in his spare time as his days are filled with the carpentry job he also works. Farming is not as lucrative as it used to be. One of my cousins is born. First on my dad’s side. I am not the only grandchild anymore. She’s cool though.

Reagan wins reelection. Apple begins to sell the Macintosh personal computer.  Both Zen Arcade and Double Nickels on the Dime are released. CO2 is at 343 ppm.


June, 1985

We move into a house. The first place I remember living. It’s near my dad’s grandparents. We have a dog. She is a cocker spaniel and her name is Missy. My parents name her. They are really, really bad with names.

Reagan is still kicking and someone just found the wreck of the RMS Titanic. The Pogues are about to release Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash. CO2 is at 349 ppm


I was a weird kid.


November, 1989

I am in third grade and at this point we have bought a house. Further down the street, but in the same small town in North Carolina. But we own this one and there’s a yard. My dad is working in the shipping department of a dye mill and my mom is doing data entry work. We have two dogs now—a second cocker spaniel named Snoopy. I named this one. My grandfather is only doing carpentry work now. He gave up the farm.

George H. W. Bush is president. The Berlin Wall falls.  The first report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is still a year a way. Biz Markie, Queen Latifah, and Big Daddy Kane put out amazing albums. CO2 is at 351 ppm.


I remember sitting on the floor watching the Berlin Wall fall on TV feeling this overwhelming sense that the world was changing, but not really understanding how.


January, 1994

I earn my Eagle Scout award after completing a project building dugouts and refinishing a picnic shelter for a local church. I also start my first job picking peppers to be pickled. Hiatt’s Stuffed Peppers. Still around if you can find em.

Bill Clinton is President. NAFTA is signed. The Northridge Earthquake will kill 57 people. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain from Pavement and 24 Hour Revenge Therapy by Jawbreaker are released. CO2 is at 358 ppm.


May, 2000

I am finishing up my first year of college at Western Carolina University. I am about to lose one of my scholarships because of a C in statistics. It’s hard to manage between a full time job, work-study, and 15 hours of classes. I don’t know anyone who has ever went to college. It’s not a great time.

George W. Bush is President. The population of India exceeds one billion. The Millennium Force opens up at Cedar Point. Sleater-Kinney puts out All Hands on the Bad One. CO2 is at 371 ppm.


May, 2005

I graduate with a degree in English Literature, but spend most of my time playing music and working at a gas station. My dad is working maintenance at a university in North Carolina and my mom is doing bookkeeping for an accountant. Later in the year, on a whim, I will take a job working at group home for at-risk kids and meet someone who will change my life.

George W. is still President. The Red Sox have finally won a World Series. The US is about to get hit by multiple hurricanes later in the summer. An Inconvenient Truth is a year away. M.I.A. puts out Arular and everyone band we play with sounds like Bloc Party. CO2 is at 382 ppm


I am still weird. Don’t hate too much, I was in college and probably couldn’t afford a hair cut.


April, 2007

We welcome our first kid into the world. I have moved on from the group home and am an actual mental health professional. We are still in the mountains of western North Carolina and trying to figure out what to do. I am thinking about going back to school.

A gunman kills 32 people at Virginia Tech. NASA’s Messenger is en route to Mercury. The Red Sox are going to win their second World Series in my life time and the IPCC will issue their fourth report on Global Climate Change. Person Pitch by Panda Bear is out. 2007 will register as the third-hottest year to date and CO2 is at 386 ppm.


February, 2011

We welcome our second kid into the world and I am in my first year of graduate school at the University of Virginia. In the past year I have said goodbye to an aunt (complications from treatment) and an uncle (drug use). Later in the year, I will see my grandfather for the last time.

Barack Obama is President. In March, a 9.0 earthquake followed by a tsunami will devastate Japan. Oprah is going to bring here show to an end. Bon Iver and Section.80 are released. CO2 is at 391 ppm.


Field work in West Virginia around 2012.


May, 2015

My first peer-reviewed publication is published in Biogeosciences and I am few months from graduating with my Ph.D.

The UK is about to elect its first majority conservative government in 18 years. The US will win its third women’s World Cup.  Courtney Barnett and Tame Impala are in heavy rotation.  CO2 is at 403 ppm.


403 ppm is my  #CO2andME story and is my place on the Keeling Curve, the plot that shows the steady increases of CO2 in our atmosphere. Since 1950, CO2 concentrations have been measured at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, a project started by Charles David Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. As CO2 increases, so does the planet’s global temperature. The global concentration of CO2 has risen by 60 ppm in my life time. The earth has also warmed by a degree in the same period. The last three years have been the hottest three years since global records began.


  • The five warmest years in the global record have all come in the last eight years.
  • The ten warmest have come since 1998.
  • The twenty warmest since 1995.


This trend is driven by the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere that comes from the burning of fossil fuels. On May 8, 2018 CO2 is at 410.63 ppm.



This post was inspired by Dave Moore, Benjamin Poulter and all those who posted their #CO2andME stories on Twitter.













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