Pentecost at 400

For the first time ever, Christians will celebrate Pentecost with carbon dioxide concentrations in the air at 400 parts per million (measured by the world’s most important monitoring station.  An updated reading by the NOAA adjusted this to 399.89, but Scripps continued to measure 400.08).

Even if the original Pentecost event was credited with a daily increase in numbers (Acts 2:47), this number 400 is not good news – neither for this Pentecost, nor for the planet, nor for Pentecosts to come.  A safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million, significantly lower than the levels currently measured.  We have already witnessed the devastating effects as we moved above 350, for example in rising seas and extreme weather.  (And in case someone still wonders: the rapid rise of carbon dioxide levels is the work of human hands, not, for example, that of cow farts, as some still seem to think).

My wish for Pentecost 2013 is this:  that Christians around the globe will not only fervently invoke God’s Spirit to renew the face of the earth, but also commit themselves, with equal fervor, to refrain from further marring the face of the earth, for example by reigning in the use of fossil fuels, and transitioning to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable food practices.

One thing is certain, on this first Pentecost at 400:  the future Pentecosts Christians will still celebrate on this beautiful planet will be numbered unless we bring the number 400 back down to 350.




  1. Correction: the future Pentecosts Christians will celebrate will be numbered, regardless of CO2 levels. The earth is not intended to last forever—it will be replaced by a new heavens and a new earth (Is 65:17).

  2. I’m too preoccupied on Pentecost with having a vigorous faith in the Gift and gifts of the Holy Spirit to take on believing in man made CO2 emissions that are placing the planet in peril. Isn’t that another blog?

    1. @Jack Feehily – comment #2:
      I think the incarnation (if nothing else) points us to the fact that “human-made” and God-inspired are not polar opposites; as if we can look only at one and not the other if we want to live a vigorous, vibrant faith on this planet and in this world.

  3. Bovine flatulence produces methane, rather than carbon dioxide. And methane is 23 times more powerful in its contribution to greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide, so yes, this is a significant factor in global warming — over 14%, at the latest estimate. Actually, the primary cause is apparently belching rather than farting by cows. It is estimated that agricultural methane will have increased by 60% by the year 2030. That sounds rather more serious to me than human-made pollution, given that cars become more emission-friendly all the time.

    The major increase in greenhouse gases over the past 20 years has been caused by low-cost airlines, which have mushroomed massively. In addition, the appalling service they provide and their deleterious effect on the legacy airline business makes their contribution to the life of the planet a negative one. Legacy airlines would fly even without you and I as passengers, as they carry mail and freight. They are not the problem. Low-cost airlines do not carry mail or freight, so boycotting them is something that everyone should consider.

  4. With all respect to the Ecumenical Patriarch who is an environmentalist, I am not sure why this is on a liturgy blog. Nonetheless:

    – the number of cows is almost certainly influenced by human activity, so the bovine flatulence argument is an example of human influence on greenhouse gasses.
    – low cost airlines’ contribution is minuscule compared to automobiles only because there are millions of cars for each of their planes.
    – another major factor is power plants that create greenhouse gasses in generating electricity.
    – deforestation also contributes by disrupting reabsorption of CO2, so consumption is not the only human role. Low cost airlines might play a role in making deforestation easier, but probably not much.

    1. @Jim McKay – comment #6:
      Jim, I am supposing that the “this” you refer to is Paul Inwood’s earlier response (i.e. # 3) rather than my original post — which I clearly related to the feast of Pentecost. But in any case,thank you for what you outlined here. More could be added — I was just too preoccupied with Pentecost and having a vigorous faith this morning (to gesture back to comment # 2).

    2. @Jim McKay – comment #6:

      Jim, I did not say that low-cost airlines (of which, by the way, there are many more in Europe than in the US, with much more extensive networks and schedules) are a major factor in greenhouse gases in toto. I did say that their presence has snowballed in the past two decades, and has been a significant factor in the increase in greenhouse gases that we have seen.

  5. Pentecost and Creation go together — Genesis 1:2 and 8:1b. Even today’s reading from Sirach partly consoles for the disappearance of the old Octave by its vision of God’s wisdom poured out on all his works.

    Yesterday at the Anglican church the priest read the opening prayer in Mon and the gospel in Russian while some of the congregation read it in their own tongues, producing a mighty babble.

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