The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has hit a troubling and long-feared milestone, according to scientists. The level of the most important heat-trapping gas reached a concentration not seen on our planet for millions of years.
Scientific instruments showed that the carbon dioxide gas reached an average daily level of 400 parts per million. While is may not seem like much, it is a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring carbon emissions under control are not working as planned.
The best available evidence for carbon dioxide levels shows that the amount of the gas in our atmosphere has not been at this level for about three million years — before humans evolved. Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), explained, “It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem.”
Essentially, every car trip, plane trip, and flip of a light switch (in most places), is contributing to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Relatively little money is being spent on finding and deploying alternative technologies, like battery-powered cars and solar energy panels.
While China is the largest emitter of the greenhouse gas, Americans have been producing it for far longer. Experts say that the US is much more responsible than any other nation for the high level of carbon monoxide.
Burning of fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal, enhance the “greenhouse effect,” causing Earth to warm to levels that climate scientists cannot attribute to any natural force. There are natural ups and downs of carbon dioxide, but not like the levels seen between the Industrial Revolution and now.
Ad the time of the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide levels ran about 280 parts per million. But since humans have started releasing large amounts of the gas into the atmosphere, that level has skyrocketed, relatively. Tans added:
“That increase is not a surprise to scientists. The evidence is conclusive that the strong growth of global CO2 emissions from the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas is driving the acceleration.”
Crossing the threshold of 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide is “more than a new data point about greenhouse gas levels in our atmosphere,” according to World Wildlife Fund chief scientist Jon Hoekstra.
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