2013-05-10

There Are Now 400 Parts Per Million CO2 In The Air For The First Time: That Is Way Too Much

We’ve reached an ignominious milestone, as the level of carbon dioxide in the air has reached the highest levels ever during human existence. The last time there has been this much carbon dioxide in the air was 3 million years ago, and the Earth was not a fun place to be.

On top of the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa, scientists at the Mauna Loa Observatory, an atmospheric research facility, encounter dazzling views and sobering news about the earth’s future. Today, they announced that for the first time in millions of years, the level of the carbon dioxide in the air had reached 400 parts per million on average over the course of a full 24-hour day.

It’s a significant reminder that not enough is being done to curtail the volume of climate-changing causing greenhouse gasses that are entering the atmosphere.

As the New York Times reported on Friday, the epoch of the Pliocene, more than 3 million years ago, was the last time the level of carbon dioxide was this high. That was a time of warmer temperatures, less polar ice, and sea levels as much as 60 to 80 feet higher than current levels.

The Mauna Loa Observatory.

"Experts fear that humanity may be precipitating a return to such conditions — except this time, billions of people are in harm’s way" warned the Times. As Columbia University scientist Maureen E. Raymo told the paper, “It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster."

Groups like 350.org, founded by environmental activist and journalist Bill McKibben, advocate for policies to bring the level of carbon dioxide back to what they say is a safe limit of 350 parts per million. "[T]he only way to get there is to immediately transition the global economy away from fossil fuels and into into renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable farming practices in all sectors (agriculture, transport, manufacturing, etc.)," they write on their website.

Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have increased by more than 40 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, just 250 years ago, when human industry began burning significant amounts of fossil fuels.3

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5 Comments

  • David D Stewart

    Releasing Carbon from the past,puts the Earth back in time,where we could not have existed,put that in your pipe,and smoke on it!

  • SMG

    As stated in the article: we have had these levels in the past, long before humans started burning fossil fuels. All of the 'fossil' fuels were at one time CO2 in the atmosphere anyway, so stop acting like this is "too much" or unnatural.

  • Ariel Schwartz

    ...also long before humans roamed the planet. The point is that humanity has never dealt with CO2 levels this high. 

  • Richardfairless

    The number 400 is an arbitary number pulled out of thin air. It is proven that plants and trees thrive with higher CO2 levels. And that's a bad thing? Time for the whole climate change/global warming scam to end.

  • Juan

     I think that it's not a good idea pass through this kind of alerts.  Plants and trees are decreasing too, it means that nature it's geting less capacity to deal with the quantity of C02 that is going to atmosphere.