Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Levels Have Reached a New All-Time High

The bad news regarding the state of our planet and climate keeps piling up. Yesterday, a report predicted climate change could have disastrous effects for the planet by 2050. Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, better known as NOAA, published data showing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are continuing to skyrocket.

CO2 levels recorded at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory reached a new record high in May, peaking at 414.7 parts per million (ppm). That’s the highest seasonal peak recorded in 61 years of measurements at the mountaintop observatory.

This marks the “seventh consecutive year of steep global increases” in CO2 levels in the atmosphere, according to the press release. But the amount of carbon dioxide has been on the upswing ever since the observatory first started measuring. In the early 1960s, CO2 levels were below 320 ppm, and increasing at about 0.7 ppm per year. The CO2 level surged past 400 ppm in 2014, and now the growth rate has increased to 2.2 ppm over the last 10 years. These measurements clearly show the impact human activity has had on the planet.

“It’s critically important to have these accurate, long-term measurements of CO2 in order to understand how quickly fossil fuel pollution is changing our climate,” Pieter Tans, senior scientist with NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division, said in a press release. “These are measurements of the real atmosphere. They do not depend on any models, but they help us verify climate model projections, which if anything, have underestimated the rapid pace of climate change being observed.”

May is the key month for taking these measurements at the Mauna Loa observatory. It falls just before newly blooming plants start to remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. In addition, plants and soils in the northern hemisphere release C02 during the winter and early spring, which also contributes to the peak levels of greenhouse gases recorded in May.


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