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article imageCO2 levels reach 415 ppm for first time in human history

By Karen Graham     May 13, 2019 in Environment
"For the first time in human history, our planet's atmosphere has more than 415ppm CO2," meteorologist Eric Holthaus tweeted on May 12, 2019. Remember this day - because humanity has now entered into uncharted territory.
"We don't know a planet like this," added Holthaus. And we could add that the new atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have reached heights not seen in the entirety of human existence - not just human history.
According to data from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, on May 12, 2019, atmospheric CO2 levels reached 415.27 ppm. One year ago, on the same date, CO2 levels were 411.92 ppm. To put the reading in perspective even further, global CO2 levels have risen 15 ppm in just three years.
In September 2016, CO2 levels in Earth's atmosphere crossed the symbolic 400 parts per million threshold for the first time. Scientists said it was extremely unlikely that the planet will ever drop below those levels again in our lifetimes.
Yet despite this new measurement, no one has heard a public outcry, nor has the news media made this the most important story of the day because it should be breaking news on all channels all over the world.
Rich Pancost, head of the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol in the U.K., said that the best guess of the scientific community is that global atmospheric carbon levels have not been this high for "about 3 million years... maybe more."
In January, 2019, the UK's Met Office predicted that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will make one of their highest leaps in the past 62 years of measurement.
"The year-on-year increase of CO2 is getting steadily bigger as it has done throughout the whole of the 20th century," the Met Office's Dr. Chris Jones told BBC News. "What we are seeing for next year will be one of the biggest on record and it will certainly lead to the highest concentration of CO2."
In the Pliocene Period, it was much hotter
The Pliocene Period is an epoch in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.333 million to 2.5 million years. Temperatures averaged 2 to 3 degrees Celsius higher than they are today and global sea levels were 25 meters (82 feet) higher than they are today. The atmospheric CO2 levels topped out at about 35 percent higher than the pre-industrial level of about 280 ppm, according to a 1996 study.
Average February sea-surface temperatures during the mid-Pliocene  derived from the PRISM3_SST_v1.0 ...
Average February sea-surface temperatures during the mid-Pliocene, derived from the PRISM3_SST_v1.0 dataset.
USGS
At that time, the Arctic was covered in trees, not ice, and summer temperatures in the far north are believed to have reached around 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). All in all, this was not a world we are familiar with today. That is our fate, folks. That is what 415ppm produces. It is only a matter of time, and some of the sea level rises will come quickly.
Amsterdam, New Orleans, Lisbon, Miami – the list of cities that will be submerged is enormous, and as we are already seeing, some cities and coastal communities are already experiencing the impacts of rising sea levels.
On Social media, there has been a mixture of frustration, alarm, and fresh demands for urgent action to address the crisis. But remember, it is not as if we haven't known about this impending crisis, is it?
What else does this latest report show us? It shows us that CO2 levels are rising unabated, despite the Paris climate accord. It leaves all of us with one question we have to answer ourselves, each and every one of us - How much longer are we going to keep our heads in the sand?
More about co2 levels, Carbon emissions, 415 ppm, Human history, Pliocene Period
 
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