Carbon dioxide level reaches new milestone

Carbon dioxide level reaches new milestone

Daily mean concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, surpassed on Thursday 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since measurements began in 1958, according the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Independent measurements made by both NOAA and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have been approaching this level

Daily mean concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, surpassed on Thursday 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since measurements began in 1958, according the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Independent measurements made by both NOAA and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have been approaching this level during the past week.

Science says that concentration need to be below 350 ppm to keep the average temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) this century.

NOAA scientists with the Global Monitoring Division have made around-the-clock measurements there since 1974. Having two programs independently measure the greenhouse gas provides confidence that the measurements are correct.

Carbon dioxide concentration has increased every year since scientists started making measurements on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano more than five decades ago.

The rate of increase has accelerated since the measurements started, from about 0.7 ppm per year in the late 1950s to 2.1 ppm per year during the last 10 years.

“That increase is not a surprise to scientists,” said NOAA senior scientist Pieter Tans, with the Global Monitoring Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

“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.”

 

‘No stopping CO2 from reaching 400 ppm’

It was researcher Charles David Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, who began measuring carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa in 1958, initiating now what is known as the “Keeling Curve.” 

His son, Ralph Keeling, also a geochemist at Scripps, has continued the Scripps measurement record since his father’s death in 2005.

“There’s no stopping CO2 from reaching 400 ppm,” said Ralph Keeling. “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.”

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.

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