Earth's atmospheric Carbon dioxide levels now at highest ever recorded

Olive Hawkins
May 6, 2018

Last month, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were measured at 410 parts per million (ppm), the highest measurement in the past 800,000 years, according to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

Before the Industrial Revolution, these levels naturally fluctuated over thousands of years, but never exceeded 300 ppm in the past 800,000 years.

The Keeling Curve, a daily record of atmospheric Carbon dioxide levels made at the Mauna Loa Observatory, started in 1958.

In April, the average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was around 410.31 ppm, the first time a Mauna Loa record has been greater than 410 ppm. Among methane, nitrous oxide and others, carbon dioxide is the most prevalent one, thanks to a chunk of human activities such as deforestation and burning of fossil fuels. The increase in GHGs such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide is fueling climate change and making "the planet more unsafe and inhospitable for future generations", the World Meteorological Organization has said. It's also a 30 per cent increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the global atmosphere since the Keeling Curve began in 1958. He was likewise the producer of Keeling Curve.

His very precise measurements produced a remarkable data set, which first sounded alarm bells over the build-up of the gas in the atmosphere, and eventually led to the tracking of greenhouse gases worldwide. Carbon dioxide is escalating at twice the pace it was 50 years prior.

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Back in the 1950s, when Keeling began his experiments, no-one knew whether the Carbon dioxide released from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil/petroleum and natural gas) would end up in the atmosphere or be fully absorbed by oceans and forests. The family has been keeping a constant record of climatic carbon dioxide with the assistance of Mauna Loa Observatory, since 1958. "Carbon dioxide keeps building up in the air", said Ralph Keeling. "It puts us closer to some targets we don't really want to get to, like getting over 450 or 500 ppm".

Carbon dioxide is called a greenhouse gas for its ability to trap solar radiation and keep it confined to the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide is invisible, odourless and colourless, yet it's responsible for 63 per cent of the warming attributable to all greenhouse gases, according to NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. But the readings also go up and down on an annual cycle that's controlled by the patterns and seasonality of plant growth around the planet. The estimations were made at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, a site decided for its flawless area far from the polluting impact of a noteworthy city. The direct measurement has exceeded 60 years, giving us the longest record time. That's the highest monthly average in recorded history.

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe said about the milestone on Twitter, "It's as if we discovered that something we eat every day is causing our body to run a fever and develop all kinds of harmful symptoms - and instead of cutting back, we right keep on eating it, more and more".

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