Carbon Dioxide Threshold: Surpassing The Symbolic Landmark For The First Time This Year

Aayush Mahat - Author

Jun. 14 2016, Updated 3:24 a.m. ET

Carbon dioxide threshold is hitting its new milestone for the first time ever, averaging above 400 parts per million mark. Scientists are foretelling this will never fall back soon, not in our lifetimes. According to a new study published Monday in the journal of Nature Climate Change shows that CO2 concentration has exceeded the benchmark and may never dip below it.

Scientists from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii forecasted this report based on the emissions data, sea surface temperature, and a climate model, tracking the reports of the CO2 level and finding that carbon dioxide will remain above 400ppm all year and even for centuries.

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Scientists are blaming the 2015-2016 El Niño for the record rise in CO2 concentration. It is an irregularly occurring series of climatic change that is mostly affecting the equatorial Pacific region for a few years now. It is responsible for the appearance of sudden climatic change, unusual warm climate typically in late December. They change the wind patterns across the Pacific and cause unseasonable heavy rain across South America. As they dry out the tropical region, forest fires are likely to appear, which further push concentrations upward more than usual for a given year.

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According to the data presented from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, concentration on June 12 was at 407.26ppm. Researchers suggest they should start to decline soon, according to the season cycle, as it reaches its peak during May and falls off slightly during September.

The seasonal fall in the concentration is due to the fact that plants grow well in summer, which acts as a sink as they breathe in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and climbs again as vegetation withers in winter months. The Met Office also attributed the current El Niño’s severity to forest fires started by humans.

The resulting graph shows the 56 years of CO2 at Mauna Loa this year, with a record carbon dioxide concentration of 407ppm and a clear indication of surpassing this mark even to 410ppm.

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Last year, CO2 hits a weekly peak of about 404ppm, and if this trend had continued, it would likely have been some years from now before record levels stuck permanently above 400ppm. But then El Niño occurred, topping the record 408ppm, and levels indicate that it was 4ppm higher than this point last year and is unlikely to show some fall in near future.

Answering questions regarding the fall of CO2 levels over 400ppm and the possibility of levels staying above that mark, Keeling suggested that the latter situation is more likely to happen, and we will have to wait centuries before it will dip below 400ppm.

“I think it’s pretty unlikely that Mauna Loa will dip below 400ppm in the monthly or weekly averages,” he said. This is what he first guessed in his blog post back in October when it became clear how strong El Niño would be.

Carbon emissions and greenhouse gases have severe side effects in everyday life, including the extinction of rare species. Humans are even more responsible now during the past decades for the rise because of deforestation, unusual wildfires, and misuse of fossil fuels.

It is the emissions from human activities that are by far the main catalyst in this bumpy ride of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. Global warming appears to have hit its new high, which is unlikely to fall.

The paper’s lead author, Richard Betts, said:

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“The atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is rising year-on-year due to human emissions, but this year it is getting an extra boost due to the recent El Niño event.”

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Reports suggesting from many advocates regarding this matter tell that, in roughly 20 years of time, we could be passing above 450ppm; the safe level is around 350ppm maximum in the atmosphere.

Carbon emissions pose a severe threat to life on Earth, leading to the mass extinction of wildlife and plants, massive ice melting in the polar region, rising sea level, and threats to coastal and barriers communities, as well as possible tsunamis and natural calamities.

If some concrete measures are not taken precisely and implemented to achieve the minimum threshold carbon dioxide level, we would soon expect some catastrophic results on the planet.

[Photo By Sean Gallup/Getty Images]


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