Photo: Carbon dioxide
Carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere have reached a level not seen in the Earth’s recent history, according to a reading reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a U.S. federal agency.
“That increase is not a surprise to scientists,” Pieter Tans, a senior researcher with the Global Monitoring Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, was quoted as saying in a NOAA news release.
“The evidence is conclusive that the strong growth of global CO2 emissions from the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas is driving the acceleration.”
The reading was made at the world’s oldest continuous carbon-dioxide observatory, which is located atop Hawaii’s massive Mauna Loa volcano and has been in operation since 1958.
NOAA found that on Thursday the daily mean concentration of carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa was 400.03 parts per million.
“There’s no stopping CO2 from reaching 400 (parts per million),” Ralph Keeling, a geochemist at the University of California at San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, was quoted as saying in Friday’s release.
“That’s now a done deal. But what happens from here on still matters to climate, and it’s still under our control. It mainly comes down to how much we continue to rely on fossil fuels for energy.”
NOAA said that, “once emitted, CO2 added to the atmosphere and oceans remains for thousands of years. Thus, climate changes forced by CO2 depend primarily on cumulative emissions, making it progressively more and more difficult to avoid further substantial climate change.”
Scientists have determined that prior to the 19th-century Industrial Revolution, average global carbon-dioxide levels stood at 280 parts per million.
The rate of increase in carbon-dioxide levels has accelerated since continuous analysis at Mauna Loa began: from 0.7 parts per million annually in the late 1950s to 2.1 ppm per year over the past decade.
“Today’s rate of increase is more than 100 times faster than the increase that occurred when the last ice age ended” around 12,000 years ago, the news release said.