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More carbon dioxide in the air than it was in four million years

More carbon dioxide in the air than it was in four million years

Power plants, vehicles, industries, and other sources of emissions continue to release massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In May, the average concentration reached nearly 421 parts per million (ppm) – a record for this year. This means that the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere is now 50 percent higher than the pre-industrial average.

It is not uncommon for May to be the month with the highest levels of carbon dioxide each year, because it occurs just before vegetation in the northern hemisphere accelerates and begins to accumulate carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.

In May 2021, the average concentration was 419 parts per million and in May 2020 it was at 417 parts per million, according to NOAA.

fossil climate beavers

The combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas produces greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere and oceans. Emissions have caused the planet to warm to levels that cannot be explained by natural causes and effects such as increased floods, extreme heat, drought and exacerbation of wildfires that are already affecting millions of people around the world.

Now there’s more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there has been in over four million years, according to NOAA. At that time, sea level was 5-25 meters higher than it is today, enough to inundate many of the world’s largest modern cities.

It’s nothing new. We’ve known about this for half a century and failed to do anything significant about it,” said Peter Tans, senior researcher at the Global Monitoring Laboratory. At NOAA, in a comment, and continues:

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“What does it take for us to wake up?”

Tans and colleagues based their calculations on data from a weather station atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano and landed in May measurements at an average of 420.99 parts per million. Other researchers, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, made observations in Mauna Loa that in turn came to 420.78 parts per million.

Both accounts are roughly 2ppm higher than last year’s record high for May.

In 2021, the world released a total of 36.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide, the highest level ever recorded.

‘Rushing towards disaster’

The rising emissions are further evidence that countries are making little progress on goals set in Paris in 2015 to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees, preferably 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times. According to the researchers, it is necessary to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.

“Sadly, we lack the collective will to slow the continuing rise in carbon dioxide,” said Ralph Keeling, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“Fossil fuel use may no longer be accelerating, but we are still accelerating toward global catastrophe.”

Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. Photo: Johan Hallnäs/TT

The main cause of global warming is the change in the chemical composition of the air caused by humans through emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases enhance the ability of the atmosphere to heat the Earth’s surface – the so-called greenhouse effect is getting stronger.

The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions is fossil fuels such as coal, gasoline, diesel and natural gas. Land use, especially deforestation, contributes to current climate change.

Global carbon dioxide emissions have gradually increased and today are about 35 billion tons per year. The carbon dioxide content in the air has increased by about 50 percent since pre-industrial times and continues to rise at about 0.4 percent annually.

Source: Swedish Environmental Protection Agency