The amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has reached its annual peak, rising to 419 parts per million (ppm) in May, according to scientists from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Why it matters: This is the highest CO2 reading since reliable instrument data began 63 years ago, but evidence shows that it is also a peak long before human history began.
- Researchers have found that the growth rate does not show a “visible impact” from the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic.
- Carbon dioxide is a long-standing greenhouse gas emitted by human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation and agriculture.
Threat level: Not only is CO2 now at its highest level in human history, but we will only have to go back to the beginning of human history ̵
- The data from the ice core records and other indicators of what the Earth was like at the time serve as a clear warning of our future on this planet, scientists say.
- Average global sea levels, for example, were nearly 80 feet higher in the Pliocene than they are today, while the average global temperature was about 7 ° F above the pre-industrial era.
- Studies show that large forests were located in areas of the Arctic that are now home to the tundra.
Quick admission: The world first crossed the 400 ppm mark in 2013, but it only took 8 years to reach the 420 ppm mark. This is an indication of how countries have so far failed to dramatically bend the emission curve to slow down and ultimately reverse global warming.
- Data on CO2 concentrations may seem abstract, but they correspond to the risk of turning points in the climate system that could have profound social consequences, such as the melting of the Western Antarctic ice sheet.
- Numerous studies show that the lower CO2 concentrations stabilize, the greater the chances of climate change being more manageable for society and the planet’s natural systems.
Details: The rate of increase of 1.8 ppm from 2020 has been slightly slower than others in recent years, but within natural variability.
- According to NOAA senior scientist Peter Tans, the temporary dent in the global carbon pandemic is drowned out by natural variations that affect the rate at which carbon builds up in the air.
- Tans, as well as Ralph Keeling, who leads Mauna Loa’s observations from his post at Scripps, told Axios that they were not surprised by the pandemic, which caused a global reduction in emissions of about 7% in 2020, failed to slow down or stop the growth of atmospheric CO2.
- Each said net carbon emissions had not decreased significantly and long enough to be noticeable. “As long as we continue to emit, CO2 will continue to rise. And we see that. Even if we manage to freeze net emissions,” Tans said, stressing the need to reach zero emissions as soon as possible.
What are they saying:
- Keeling told Axios that 420 ppm, which the planet is almost certain to exceed next year, is a “psychological threshold.” He added: “We are moving deeper and deeper into a territory that we would almost certainly never want to reach.”
- Tans emphasizes the long-term nature of CO2, with each molecule lasting up to 1,000 years in the air. “As far as human civilization is concerned, these emissions are forever,” he said, supporting plans to reduce emissions to zero as soon as possible.