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First In 4 Million Years: CO2 Rates In Antarctica Hit 400 PPM

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On May 23, we officially started living in a brand new world when a historic climate change milestone took place. For the first time in 4 million years, the planet's carbon dioxide concentrations at the South Pole hit 400 parts per million (ppm).

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, Earth's carbon dioxide concentration has been on a steady rise. But since the majority of mankind's carbon emissions are happening far away from the South Pole, this spot on our planet takes longer to catch up.

And on May 23, it finally surpassed a historic climate change milestone based on the recent report from the South Pole Observatory.

"The far southern hemisphere was the last place on earth where CO2 had not yet reached this mark," said lead researcher Pieter Tans from the Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network at U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

CO2 levels surge in the fall and winter. During the summer months in Northern Hemisphere, the levels go down with the help of terrestrial plants' photosynthesis activities that consume CO2.

However, these terrestrial plants can only do so much. Among CO2 emitted every year, they only consume a fraction of the damage, therefore, since the monitoring started in 1958, the CO2 levels in the atmosphere were found to continuously rise, setting a new record year after year.

In 2015, the global average for CO2 reached 399 ppm. This suggested that the 2016 global average will go beyond 400 ppm.

Tans added that carbon dioxide increase is everywhere - a portion of CO2 emitted in New York will reach the South Pole the following year. In 2015, the annual CO2 growth rate surged by 3.05 ppm, which marked the biggest year-to-year rates increase in 56 years.

Because of the carbon dioxide increase, the numbers of North Atlantic microscopic marine alga, which features a shell-like skeleton, also surged over 10 times in the last 50 years, according to a 2015 report.

Tans added that a growing number of research and solid evidence proved that the CO2 increase is "caused entirely by human activities."

In the past years, the emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have been at a record high, therefore, the increase in CO2 rates has also been very high. And for thousands of years, the CO2 emissions will remain in the planet's atmosphere.

The planet's annual atmospheric CO2 growth rate is being measured at NOAA's Hawaii-based Mauna Loa Observatory, a leading atmospheric research facility.

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