Earth’s Carbon Levels Continue to Climb as Oxygen Levels Drop, Worrying Scientists and Environmentalists

A recent post on the website for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography brought some foreboding news for scientists and environmentalists – and mankind in general. According to Scripps, carbon levels in the Earth’s atmosphere crossed a dangerous, and quite possibly longterm, threshold this month.

The news comes just days after reports that the oxygen levels on Earth are continuing to slowly, but steadily decline as well.

Scientists have long held that global carbon levels need to remain at around 350 parts per million (ppm) to support healthy life on Earth.

The monthly average for September is shaping up to be approximately 401 ppm, according to Scripps.

This is particularly troubling when considering that September usually has the lowest readings for carbon levels.

“We are now approaching the annual low point in the Mauna Loa CO2 curve, which typically happens around the last week of September but varies slightly from year to year,” the Scripps post reads. “Recent daily and weekly values have remained above 400 parts per million… September is typically but not always the lowest month of the year.”

The post states that it is “almost impossible” that the levels will decline in October, and that even if they do, it won’t be by enough.

“Over the past two decades, there were four years (2002, 2008, 2009, and 2012) in which the monthly value for October was LOWER than September,” Scripps explains. “But in those years, the decrease from September to October was at most 0.45 ppm – which would not seem to be enough to push October values below 400 ppm this year.”

The post concludes on an ominous note.

“Brief excursions towards lower values are still possible but it already seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year – or ever again for the indefinite future.”

The environmental activist group 350.org says that the sudden increase in global carbon levels requires immediate attention.

“Although short-term local measurements of 400 ppm have been recorded previously, this marks the first time since record keeping began that CO2 levels were above 400 ppm globally for a month,” reads a post on the 350.org website. “The safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. The only way to get there is to immediately transition the global economy away from fossil fuels and into into renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable farming practices.”

Environmentalists and climatologists quoted on the 350.org site say that the increased carbon levels threaten biodiversity and the general health of the planet. They note that carbon levels this high have not been seen on Earth in millions of years.

Last week The Inquisitr reported that oxygen levels continue to decline throughout Earth. The decline is slow, but, if it continues, it too could threaten environmental health on a global scale.

“Atmospheric oxygen levels are fundamentally linked to the evolution of life on Earth, as well as changes in geochemical cycles related to climate variations,” Charles Q. Choi of Live Science explains. “As such, scientists have long sought to reconstruct how atmospheric oxygen levels fluctuated in the past, and what might control these shifts.”

While declining oxygen levels sound scary, Daniel Stolper, a geochemist at Princeton University who worked on the research on the diminishing oxygen levels, insists it’s nothing to worry about just yet, according to a report from Live Science.

He compared the decline in Oxygen levels in recent years to that of standing on the 30th floor of a building. The difference is measurable, but most people won’t notice it.

Despite Stolper’s reassurances, the fact that the Earth’s oxygen levels are decreasing, albeit at a very slow rate, while the carbon levels are increasing, at a much more troubling rate, isn’t good news any way you look at it.

[Featured image by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images]