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article imageAtmospheric concentrations of CO2 break new record

By Karen Graham     May 4, 2018 in World
Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have set a new and worrying record. For the first time in recorded history, levels of CO2 averaged higher than 410 parts per million (ppm) for the entire month of April.
The amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is at its highest level in at least the past 800,000 years, according to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and this is the first month where the CO2 levels have consistently remained above 410 ppm.
Actually, prior to the onset of the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels had fluctuated for millennia but had never exceeded 300 ppm. However, the new readings show a 30 percent increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the global atmosphere since the Keeling Curve began in 1958.
“We keep burning fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide keeps building up in the air,” said Scripps scientist Ralph Keeling, who maintains the longest continuous record of atmospheric carbon dioxide on Earth. “It’s essentially as simple as that.”
In 2016  humanity emitted the equivalent of 52 billion tonnes -- or gigatonnes -- of CO2 (52GtCO2e) ...
In 2016, humanity emitted the equivalent of 52 billion tonnes -- or gigatonnes -- of CO2 (52GtCO2e), including other gases such as methane
LIONEL BONAVENTURE, AFP/File
The Keeling Curve
Ralph Keeling and his late father Charles David Keeling, before him, have kept carbon dioxide (CO2) measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii since 1958.
The average concentration of atmospheric CO2 for the month of April was 410.31 parts per million (PPM), according to the Keeling Curve measurement series. The Keeling Curve is a graph that plots the ongoing change in concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere since the 1950s, based on continuous measurements.
Charles David Keeling, of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, was the first person to make frequent regular measurements of the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, taking readings at the South Pole and in Hawaii from 1958 onwards. Now, his son carries on in his place.
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Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Concerns over the rate of rise in CO2 levels
Carbon dioxide is called a greenhouse gas (GHG) because of its ability to trap solar radiation and keep it confined to the atmosphere. It is the most abundant of the GHGs and is attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. The increase in GHGs such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide is fueling climate change and making "the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations," the World Meteorological Organization has said.
And even though carbon dioxide is invisible, odorless and tasteless, it's responsible for 63 percent of the warming attributable to all greenhouse gases, according to NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.
If you take a moment and look closely at the graph above, you will see it has a saw-toothed edge as it creeps up the scale. As you can see, the CO2 concentrations have "ticked up" in an unbroken progression since readings first began. But the readings also go up and down on an annual cycle that's controlled by the patterns and seasonality of plant growth around the planet.
NOAA s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.
NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.
NOAA
That is the reason for the graph having its saw-toothed look. The rate of growth, according to Keeling, has been about 2.5 parts per million per year, But he also says the rate of growth has been rising faster with this decade, that began in 2010, than in the 2000s.
“It’s another milestone in the upward increase in CO2 over time,” Keeling said of the newest measurements, reports the Washington Post. “It puts us closer to some targets we don’t really want to get to, like getting over 450 or 500 ppm. That’s pretty much dangerous territory.”
"It’s as if we discovered that something we eat every day is causing our body to run a fever and develop all kinds of harmful symptoms — and instead of cutting back, we right keep on eating it, more and more,” tweeted climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe about the findings.
More about atmospheric co2, highest ever recorded, 30 percent increase, Climate change, Environment
 
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