Carbon Dioxide Levels Hit New High at 415 PPM - Highest in Human History

Whole Earth from space - view from Apollo 17 December 1972. First photograph of south polar ice cap. Most of Africa visible also Arabian Peninsular and Madagascar (Malagasy). NASA photograph.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere hit a new milestone Friday after instruments at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii showed the greenhouse gas levels surpassed 415 parts per million.

"This is the first time in human history our planet's atmosphere has had more than 415ppm CO2," Eric Holthaus tweeted. "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."

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere haven't been this high in more than 800,000 years, data from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California - San Diego show. Scientists say carbon dioxide is the primary driver for global climate change, which can trap solar radiation in the atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas release CO2, Methane and other types of greenhouse gases which are responsible for the planet's warming.

"We don't know a planet like this," Holthaus added.

"Many of us had hoped to see the rise of CO2 slowing by now, but sadly that isn’t the case," Ralph Keeling, director of the Scripps CO2 Program said in a statement about the milestone. “It could still happen in the next decade or so if renewables replace enough fossil fuels."

Experts say emissions made by humans continue to rise thanks to the expanded use of coal, oil and natural gas. The CO2 that is emitted today will be still trapping heat in the atmosphere thousands of years from now.

"CO2 levels are continuing to grow at an all-time record rate because emissions from coal, oil, and natural gas are also at record high levels," said PieterTans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. "Today’s emissions will still be trapping heat in the atmosphere thousands of years from now."

"If the current rate of increase holds steady for another two decades, global CO2 will likely be well past 450 ppm in 2038,” Tans said.

Photo: Getty Images

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