Category Archives: Outreach

American Chemical Society to Honor Keeling Curve in June 12 Ceremony



Scripps Oceanography lab monitoring atmospheric CO2 named National Historic Chemical Landmark
Continue reading American Chemical Society to Honor Keeling Curve in June 12 Ceremony

An Update on Keeling Curve Funding Support

The last few months have been an interesting time for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego O2 and CO2 programs, as we faced a very challenging budget situation. The central activity of these programs involves making observations of atmospheric CO2 and O2 concentrations that are critical to understanding the state of our planet.   Some of you may have read the letter of appeal that I wrote back in December 2013, and I want to summarize where things now stand.

As background, the Scripps CO2 and O2 programs have been supported over the years almost entirely through a bundle of federal grants, typically each lasting three years or so, with several grants running at one time. This process is haphazard, and its success has rested on showing that our long-term observational efforts fit into the ever-shifting priorities of the federal agencies.  This past year was especially difficult, as several grants came to the end of their funding cycles and the landscape for support within the federal agencies, for a variety of complex reasons, was especially problematic.

Faced with the prospect of shutting down key elements of the program and the loss of critical staff, we made a concerted campaign to patch together enough support to sustain the program through this calendar year.  The hope was that the prospect for federal funding might improve in a year’s time.  We therefore redoubled our efforts to secure all forms of support, not just from federal sources, but also private sources, including turning to crowdsourcing.

So where are things now?  The situation is still very uncertain, but more hopeful.

The crowdsourcing campaign has been successful in terms of raising the sum of $21,529*.  This sum may seem small compared to the total annual operating costs of around $1 million for the O2 and CO2 programs.  Importantly, the attention raised by this effort has paid dividends much larger than actual dollar sum.  I want to offer a heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed. It has been gratifying to see help come in from people all over the world who understand the value of long-term observations such as the Keeling Curve. It really helps to know that there is a public support base that we can turn to in tough times like we have faced lately. This funding will be used to support key elements of the long-term program.  We have daily needs that range from maintaining the supply of calibration gases in our instruments to Mauna Loa to the analysis of air samples brought into our La Jolla lab from stations ranging from the South Pole to the northernmost point of Alaska.

The greater awareness to the Scripps CO2 and O2 programs has likely played a role in the emergence of new funding opportunities that we are actively pursuing.   We currently have three significant grant proposals pending, two of which are new since December.  If these are successful, the base support for the program may be restored by later this year. Still, we don’t know yet how these are going to turn out, and the immediate funding situation is still very urgent.

Again, thanks for the generous support.  While funding these programs has always been a struggle, they continue to provide groundbreaking insights into how our world is changing and to help shape the discussions of what best can be done about it.  It seems likely that their continuity may increasingly depend on private sources of support in the future.

* current as of July 29, 2014


— Ralph Keeling



Key IPCC Contributor to Deliver Fifth Annual Keeling Lecture

David Victor, renowned expert on energy and climate change policy, to discuss challenges of climate change mitigation

The Keeling Lecture is part of the Jeffrey B. Graham Perspectives on Ocean Science Lecture Series. It takes place at Birch Aquarium at Scripps and is open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the lecture begins at 7 p.m. The cost is $8 for the public, $5 for students and educators $5, and free for Birch Aquarium at Scripps members. RSVPs are requested and can be made here.

UC San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies Professor David Victor is a leading contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) most recent report on mitigating climate change. On Tuesday, May 13, he will deliver the fifth annual Keeling Lecture, in memory of distinguished Scripps Professor Charles David Keeling’s life and invaluable contributions to climate science and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

Victor, an internationally recognized leader in research on energy and climate change policy, is director of the school’s new Laboratory on International Law and Regulation, and author of numerous books including his most recent, Global Warming Gridlock: Creating More Effective Strategies for Protecting the Planet. He served as a drafting author of the Summary for Policymakers that accompanied the IPCC’s Working Group III report on climate change mitigation strategies. The summary was released on April 12.

Victor, who was recently in Berlin for the final negotiations that led to the approval of the report, will discuss the process of creating the report and strategies for getting beyond gridlock.  One of the central conclusions from the IPCC report is that despite the rise in the number of policies, emissions are increasing faster than at any time since the early 1970s, he said.

“The problem of climate change is getting worse, quickly,” said Victor.  “There are lots of reasons for this—political gridlock central among them—and I will be talking about how new policy strategies here in the U.S. and internationally can help to fix that.”

The late Scripps geochemist Charles David Keeling is the namesake of the Keeling Curve, the measurement of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere that he established in 1958. The Keeling Curve has tracked a steady increase of the greenhouse gas to levels that have never been present in human history. Society’s use of fossil fuels for energy is the main cause of the excess.

The lecture will be available to the public as part of the Perspectives on Ocean Science video series offered by UCSD-TV following the event.

Those wishing to support the Keeling Lecture Series are asked to call 858-822-4313 or visit

– Robert Monroe