The monthly global average concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) has surpassed 400 parts per million in March 2015. That’s higher than we’ve seen in about two million years.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) gave a statement predictably blaming human kind for the escalating levels of highly damaging gases: “reinforces evidence that the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities are responsible for the continuing increase in heat-trapping greenhouse gases”.
In precise numbers, Pieter Tans, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chief greenhouse gas scientist, informs us the burning of fossil fumes has caused global CO2 concentrations to rise more tha 120 parts per million since pre-industrial times.
Tans called the event “both disturbing and daunting […] Daunting from the standpoint on how hard it is to slow this down” and explained that CO2 levels are rising 100 times faster than any natural rise that has taken place in the past. Metaphorically speaking, the scientist informed that the fast-rising levels of CO2 could be seen as an explosion when compared to the Earth’s much slower natural changes.
However, Tans also suggest that we shouldn’t be very surprised by the numbers: “It was only a matter of time that we would average 400 parts per million globally […] We first reported 400 ppm when all of our Arctic sites reached that value in the spring of 2012. In 2013 the record at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory first crossed the 400 ppm threshold. Reaching 400 parts per million as a global average is a significant milestone”.
NOAA used 40 different global sites, many of them shores of remote islands, to collect air in flasks and calculate the global CO2 concentration. Ed Dlugokencky, the NOAA scientist who manages the global network explained that “We choose to sample at these sites because the atmosphere itself serves to average out gas concentrations that are being affected by human and natural forces. At these remote sites we get a better global average”.
The seriousness of the situation is not to be overlooked as CO2 lasts in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and even longer in the oceans, harming the ecosystem for several life times.
Even though the International Energy Agency reported in March that CO2 emission stalled in 2014, remaining the same as in 2013, scientists agree that mere stabilization is not enough to prevent climate change.
Dlugokencky felt it was important to note that the CO2 concentration is expected to be higher in May due to the natural cycles of decaying plant matter and soil organisms that cause global CO2 levels to rise during the plants’ dormant period. CO2 levels are expected to drop slightly as plants begin to bloom and use CO2 for photosynthesis in late spring and summer.
Image Source: digitaljournal.com