Scientists and environmental advocates have long warned about the increasing presence of greenhouse gases in our planet’s atmosphere, and how these gases, particularly carbon dioxide, have been blamed for the ongoing problem of global warming. Unfortunately, newly released statistics suggest that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are higher than they’ve ever been in six decades of record-keeping.
Based on the most recent figures from Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory, which has been recording data on greenhouse gas concentrations since 1958, the average amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded 410 parts per million (ppm) for the month of April. As noted by Mashable, this marks a 30 percent increase over the levels recorded in 1958, which were at approximately 315 ppm, and an even more substantial increase over the estimated 280 ppm levels recorded at the start of the Industrial Revolution.
In an interview with CNN, Ralph Keeling, head of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Scripps CO2 program, said that the newly recorded greenhouse gas levels are alarming, as it points to a trend where the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere keeps increasing and potentially worsening the effects of climate change on our planet. As further noted by CNN, it was Keeling’s father, Charles David Keeling, who first started taking atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on Mauna Loa in 1958, with the graph plotting the changes in these figures also known as the “Keeling Curve.”
“At the recent pace, we’ll hit 450 ppm in a mere 16 years, and 500 ppm 20 years after that. That’s well within dangerous territory for the climate system.”
According to Mashable, the figures prove that the increasing use of renewable energy and introduction of more energy-efficient models has not done much to curb the rise in carbon dioxide levels. As for the source of the carbon dioxide, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies climate scientist Kate Marvel told Mashable that it all boils down to the process of combustion through the burning of fossil fuels, resulting in higher concentrations of the gas being generated.
“We’ve been doing a lot of combusting since the Industrial Revolution, and all that extra CO2 has to go somewhere. Essentially, we’ve been treating the atmosphere as a dumpster for over 150 years.”
As explained by CNN, greenhouse gases are those that are capable of trapping radiation from the sun in Earth’s atmosphere, keeping it warm in a similar fashion to a blanket. While these gases prevent our planet from being too cold to support plant and animal life, man-made factors have contributed to the rapid, and dangerous increase in carbon dioxide levels, thereby making the “blanket” so thick that global temperatures continue to rise. According to Mashable, world temperatures have gone up by about two degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the pre-industrial years of the 19th century.
As of the present, close to 200 nations have signed the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, where world leaders mutually agreed to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent the global average temperature from going more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (two degrees Celsius) beyond pre-industrial levels. According to Ralph Keeling, that means his father’s “Keeling Curve” would need to reach its peak at some point in the near future, though he remains hopeful that people will continue switching to renewable energy sources to slow down the ongoing rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.