Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Hits Highest Level In Human History

Experts called it a scary milestone — carbon dioxide concentrations are at an unprecedented high. As of May, the Earth's atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached 415 parts per million, the highest level in the history of mankind.   ( Pixabay )

Carbon dioxide concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere reached the highest at 415 parts per million. Experts say this level is the highest in human history.

Highest CO2 Levels

Based on data from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California-San Diego, the 415 ppm record-high level CO2 reading made by the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii is the highest in history. Scripps is a research outpost of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency.

"Not just in recorded history, not just since the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Since before modern humans existed millions of years ago," said Eric Grist, a meteorologist, referring to the data.

The CO2 concentration level recorded on May 12 is far higher than any levels in more than 800,000 years of data or even before the Industrial Revolution period, where the highest recorded CO2 level was at 300 ppm.

Dangerous Milestone

The Mauna Loa Observatory has been recording CO2 levels since 1958 with Ralph Keeling of Scripps and his father Charles David Keeling. The father and son's work are responsible for creating the Keeling Curve, a graph indicator of CO2 accumulations.

At the start of observatory's recording, it took 16 years for atmospheric carbon dioxide to rise to 15 ppm, and another 6 years to reach the same level in 2010 to 2016. In May 2018, the CO2 concentrations reached 410 ppm. After less than a year, in April 2019, the average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration was at 410.31 ppm based on the Keeling Curve measurements.

Keeling said the average growth rate is remaining on the high end. He said the increase from last year will probably be around three parts per million whereas the recent average has been 2.5 ppm.

Carbon Dioxide Emission And Its Costly Effects

Carbon dioxide is an invisible, odorless, and colorless greenhouse gas that can trap solar radiation in the atmosphere. It is the most common among all greenhouse gases generated by human activities powered by fossil fuels. It is responsible for 63 percent of the atmosphere's warming attributable to greenhouse gases.

Increase in gases has caused the Earth's temperature to rise over the past century to levels that cannot be explained by natural variability. These gases are exacerbating climate change and further making the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations.

A previous report stated that climate change caused by rising carbon emissions will cost the United States some $500 billion per year by 2090. A separate comprehensive multinational report assessing changes in global biodiversity found that there are now 1 million species threatened with extinction due to climate change.

Also threatened are more than one-third of the world's land surface and 75 percent of all freshwater resources devoted to crop or livestock production. The report said up to 300 million people are at high risk of severe floods and hurricanes due to degradation of coastal habitats.

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