Flatten the Curve

If humanity has a shot at reversing climate change, it will depend on scientific and social efforts that the Keeling Curve Foundation promotes. The Foundation website states its mission: “To recognize, inspire, and promote accurate long-term observations of the environment, and to communicate their significance for mitigating and adapting to climate change.”


The Foundation is dedicated to ongoing long-term scientific measurement of the environment, showing why these measurements are important, not just for science but for human life on earth. Raising public awareness supports not only the practical social-political application of what is learned but also the progress of investigation itself.


Del Mar’s Charles David (‘Dave’) Keeling, a professor at Scripps Institute of Oceanography (SIO), began in 1958 to chart the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at an observatory on the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. The graphic representation of his measurements over time is “the Keeling curve” showing the steady rise in carbon dioxide (CO2), the prototype “greenhouse gas.” Its persistence and stark simplicity give the curve iconic force to demonstrate the increasing severity of the problem with our atmosphere.

Dave Keeling, circa 1996. Photo courtesy UCSD Digital Collection

Dave continued his measurements until his death in 2005. Dave’s son Ralph, also a professor at SIO, has continued the project. He started the Foundation in 2022 to promote public support of these and similar long-term measurements of the environment around the world.   


As Ralph writes, “My father’s life story exemplifies how important it is to have long-term records of the environment in this time of rapid climate change.  Only by tracking changes decade by decade can we understand the enormity of what is happening.  His life story also illustrates the difficulties that scientists face when attempting to keep measurements going year after year.  It was my father’s wish that his experience could help inspire other individuals to see the value and purpose in this line of research.”

Keeling Curve. Source: Keeling Curve Foundation

The Foundation is fundraising to support the annual Keeling Award recognizing scientists conducting valuable but under-appreciated or unrecognized long-term observations.  The foundation is also fundraising to support public lectures and outreach. The foundation has taken over support for the Keeling Lecture Series, at Birch Aquarium, with lectures going back to 2010 and supported by a gift from Ralph’s mother Louise. Synopses of the lectures, 12 so far, are on the Foundation website.


The Award will be given for the first time in 2024. The recipient will be chosen by an international scientific panel led by Dr. Jeremy Jackson of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.


Information on the Foundation is on the website keelingcurve.org.