September 29, 2016
Earth Carbon Dioxide Levels Cross 400 PPM Red Line -- Greenhouse Gas Concentration To Keep Air Permanently Polluted?

The concentration of Carbon Dioxide, or CO2, in the air has crossed the 400 PPM red line. By exceeding the threshold, man may have caused irreversible damage to planet Earth and threatened all its inhabitants, claim researchers.

Earth is the warmest it has been in 120,000 years, claims a new study. The record temperatures can be attributed to the steady rising of Carbon Dioxide, or CO2, the most common pollutant of the industrial and modern age. While one of the U.S. presidential candidates may vehemently deny global warming, the rising concentration of CO2 has already begun to pollute and cook our planet.

Even more concerning is the fact that CO2 concentration has crossed 400 PPM red line, reported Climate Central. Persistent concentration of the greenhouse pollutant will cause irreversible damage to the planet, claim scientists. Such annual lows of CO2 in the atmosphere have not been observed for millions of years. Scientists now insist Earth may have passed a significant symbolic threshold. September is usually the month during which atmospheric concentration of CO2 is usually at its lowest. This level sets the lower limit and is considered as a baseline for scientists to check the annual fluctuation of the greenhouse gas.

This year's lower threshold of CO2 hovered above 400 PPM (Parts Per Million). Scientists are confident this dangerously high level is the new low for CO2, and humans may never see the concentration of gas dropping in their lifetimes, reported The Guardian.

Since the Industrial Revolution, a large quantity of CO2 has been pumped into the atmosphere. However, the 400 PPM threshold must not be the new baseline, cautioned David Black, associate professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University in New York, as reported the Christian Science Monitor.
"The last time our planet saw 400 ppm carbon dioxide in our atmosphere was about 3.5 million years ago, and global climate was distinctly different than today. In particular, the Arctic (north of 60°) was substantially warmer than present, and global sea level was anywhere between 15 and 90 feet higher than today.

"It took millions of years for the atmosphere to reach 400 ppm CO2 back then, and it took millions of years for the atmospheric CO2 to drop to 280 ppm right before the industrial revolution. One of the things that really concerns climate scientists is we, as humans, have taken only a few centuries to do what nature took millions of years, and most of that change was just in the last 50-60 years."

Is the new threshold bad? While some amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is needed for healthy functioning of the planet and its inhabitants, higher concentrations pose a health hazard. Globally recommended upper limit of CO2 concentration in the lower atmosphere is 350 PPM. At 400 PPM, everyone is breathing polluted air.

Persistent high concentrations of CO2 cause multiple respiratory ailments, besides causing significant difficulty in breathing. Humans feel more tired, and the onset of fatigue causes even more diseases as the immune system is significantly weakened due to poor quality of air.

Can the CO2 be lowered? Even if humans stop burning fossil fuels, which are the primary source of CO2, the concentration won't come down for several more years, if not decades. Unfortunately, there are no signs of nations giving up on fossil fuels.

There are a few simple techniques to lower the CO2 levels. Besides planting a lot of trees and protecting forests, nations could promote the use of renewable energy sources like solar, tidal, geothermal, hydroelectric, and wind energy.

With the ratification of the Paris Agreement, many developed nations have vowed to limit their carbon emissions. However, scientists stress the need for developing technologies that actively scrub the atmosphere to remove CO2 particles. While such techniques do exists, they are not practical for the sheer scale of the crisis, concluded Black.

[Featured Image by Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images]