Carbon dioxide levels hit the highest levels in human history in May

It's 50 percent higher than the preindustrial average.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Industrial area sunset in winter.chinaphotographer/iStock

The amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen past a key milestone (more than 50 percent higher than pre-industrial times) warned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Friday according to Associated Press. The organization added that these levels have not been seen since millions of years ago.

421 parts per million of carbon dioxide for the month of May

The NOAA revealed that its long-time monitoring station at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, averaged 421 parts per million of carbon dioxide for the month of May 2022. For comparison, before the industrial revolution in the late 19th century, carbon dioxide levels were at 280 parts per million.

Despite many efforts made to curb greenhouse gas emissions, they still seem to be on the rise, said the scientists. This is alarming as a continued rise could engender devastating physical risks such as increased flooding, more extreme heat, droughts, and worsening wildfires. For reference, this year’s carbon dioxide level is nearly 1.9 ppm more than a year ago.

“Watching these incremental but persistent increases in CO2 year-to-year is much like watching a train barrel down the track towards you in slow motion. It’s terrifying,” University of Wisconsin-Madison climate scientist Andrea Dutton to the Associated Press. “If we stay on the track with a plan to jump out of the way at the last minute, we may die of heat stroke out on the tracks before it even gets to us.”

A slowdown engendered by the COVID-19 crisis did lead to slightly reduced carbon dioxide levels in 2020 but those levels were quick to rebound as soon as things returned to normal. Previous to that drop, carbon dioxide levels in 2019 were already rising for the seventh consecutive year, indicating an alarming trend that has continued to this day.

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What happens now?

What will happen if emissions are not curbed? The science is clear and the effects will be disastrous.

Human food security and the liveability of certain areas will be deeply affected. Peer-reviewed scientific journals show that if the globe heats up more than 2 degrees, we may see a point of no return by 2035.

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 put human and animal life in danger.

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

All these facts paint an alarming almost unlivable world. We still have a few years to rectify things. Will nations and industries come together to transition to a low carbon economy or will all be lost? Time will tell.

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