Carbon Dioxide Levels Rise for Seventh Consecutive Year

Carbon levels are always highest in May but the latest data is alarming.
Jessica Miley

The atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) peaked at 414.7 parts per million (ppm) at NOAA's Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory in May marking another significant annual rise.

The measurement taken from the top of Hawaii's largest volcano is the highest seasonal peak recorded in 61 years of observations.

2019 is the seventh consecutive year of increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. 


Data published this week by NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanography outlines how the 2019 peak value was 3.5 ppm higher than the 411.2 ppm peak in May 2018.

"It's critically important to have these accurate, long-term measurements of CO2 in order to understand how quickly fossil fuel pollution is changing our climate," said Pieter Tans, senior scientist with NOAA's Global Monitoring Division.

Hard data backs models

"These are measurements of the real atmosphere. They do not depend on any models, but they help us verify climate model projections, which if anything, have underestimated the rapid pace of climate change being observed."

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is accelerating and increasing every year.

There is conclusive evidence this steep increase is caused by human emissions. When recording first began at Marina Loa, annual increases averaged at about 0.7 ppm per year. This increased to about 1.6 ppm per year in the 1980s and 1.5 ppm per year in the 1990s. 

Combined measurements make base dataset

In the last decade, this has exploded to 2.2 ppm per year. Measurements from Mauna Loa are combined with data from sampling stations around the world to produce a foundational research dataset for international climate science.

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There is more COin the atmosphere now than at any point in the history of the planet. 

Even 3 million years ago during the Pliocene Epoch, when global temperatures were thought to be about 2-3 degrees Celsius warmer than today, COlevels are believed to be no more than 310 to 400 ppm.

CO2 in the atmosphere prevents the earth's natural cooling cycle which results in higher global temperatures. The current super-high levels of CO2 are caused by human activity like burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Higher than normal global temperatures affects every natural system.

It has been linked to a rapid loss of ice shelves in both the north and south poles. Increases in temperatures have also caused changes in the behavior of animals and plants that are resulting in both the extinction and increase of certain organisms. Shifts like this can transform food chains and biodiversity systems.

Global warming effects are devastating and vast

These changes can also affect human food security and the liveability of certain areas. The science related to global temperature range is very clear.

Peer-reviewed scientific journals show that if the globe heats up more than 2 degrees, there will 25% more hot days and heatwaves.

In turn, there will be more wildfires and significant impacts on both human and animal health. In addition to hot temperatures, extreme weather patterns are likely to increase and put human life in danger.

More than 1 million species also face extinction if temperatures continue to rise. On the flip side, resilient insects like mosquitoes are expected to rapidly rise in number, and possibly increasing the risk of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.

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