Planet-Warming Carbon Dioxide Levels Reach Record Levels

The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has shot past a key milestone—more than 50% higher than pre-industrial times—and is at levels not seen since millions of years ago when Earth was a hothouse ocean-inundated planet, federal scientists announced Friday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the long-term monitoring station at Mauna Loa in Hawaii measured 421 parts of million carbon dioxide during May. That is when crucial greenhouse gas hit its annual high. Scientists said that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were at around 280 parts per millions before the Industrial Revolution. Scientists and activists want it to be at least 350 parts per million. Carbon dioxide from industrial combustion comes from burning coal, oil, and gas.

According to scientists, levels of carbon dioxide continue to rise when they are supposed to fall. This year’s carbon dioxide level is nearly 1.9 ppm more than a year ago, a slightly bigger jump than from May 2020 to May 2021.

“The world is trying to reduce emissions, and you just don’t see it. In other words, if you’re measuring the atmosphere, you’re not seeing anything happening right now in terms of change,” said NOAA climate scientist Pieter Tans, who tracks global greenhouse gas emissions for the agency.

Scientists from outside said that the data shows a serious climate change issue.

“Humanity has to make more serious efforts and see a rapid decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, or else the impacts of climate change will only continue to worsen,” said Jonathan Overpeck, dean of environment at the University of Michigan.

University of Illinois climate scientist Donald Wuebbles said without cuts in carbon pollution “we will see ever more damaging levels of climate change, more heat waves, more flooding, more droughts, more large storms and higher sea levels.”

Although global carbon dioxide emissions decreased slightly following the pandemic in 2020, they increased last year. Tans stated that these changes are small in comparison to the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere every year. This was especially true when you consider the fact carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds to one thousand years.

Globally, there are approximately 10 million metric tons each year of carbon dioxide in the air. Much of that is drawn down by oceans or plants. That’s why May is the peak for global carbon dioxide emissions. The northern hemisphere plants begin to take in more carbon dioxide as they mature.

NOAA stated that carbon dioxide levels now are about the same level as they were 4.1-4.5 million years ago during the Pliocene period, which was when sea levels were higher and temperatures were 7 to 3.9 degrees Celsius hotter. For example, South Florida was totally submerged. This is a situation that no human civilization has ever experienced.

It was warmer, and the seas were larger millions of years before the increase in carbon dioxide was natural. Because carbon remained in the atmosphere for hundreds of years it caused temperatures to heat up more quickly and stay there. Tans and Overpeck stated that the Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets melted in time. This raised sea levels and made Earth darker and reflected less heat.

Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography calculated levels a bit differently based on time and averaging, and put the May average at 420.8 ppm, slightly lower than NOAA’s figure.

Read More From Time

Get in touchSend your letters to


Related Articles

Back to top button