Quantcast

CO2 Levels Top 415 PPM for First Time in Human History

Climate
dataichi - Simon Dubreuil / Moment / Getty Images

The human species experienced an alarming milestone this weekend: for the first time since Homo sapiens evolved, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels surpassed 415 parts per million (ppm), CNN reported.


The carbon dioxide high was recorded by the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii and tweeted out by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Saturday, which regularly updates C02 levels. The observatory recorded a daily C02 reading of 415.26 ppm, which is the first time the daily level topped 415 ppm.

Meteorologist and climate action advocate Eric Holthaus sounded the alarm about that data point in widely-shared retweet.

"We don't know a planet like this," he said.

Carbon dioxide levels did not top 300 ppm in the 800,000 years before the industrial revolution, according to USA Today. A study in April used computer models to confirm that carbon dioxide levels today are the highest they have been in three million years. The study also showed that current levels would be at around 280 ppm if it weren't for the burning of fossil fuels by human beings, leading to climate change.

The last time carbon dioxide levels were this high was 5.3 to 2.6 million years ago during the Pliocene epoch, when beech trees grew in Antarctica, temperatures were three to four degrees Celsius warmer and sea levels were 20 meters (approximately 65.6 feet) higher.

Holthaus wasn't the only one to respond to Saturday's news with alarm.

"Thinking about Mother Nature today," 350.org Founder Bill McKibben tweeted.


The C02 levels recorded at the Mauna Loa observatory reached 410 ppm for the first time in May of 2018, USA Today reported. Charles David Keeling took the first reading at the volcanic observatory in 1958, and his son Ralph Keeling has continued the work following his father's death. The so-called Keeling Curve documents the rise in carbon dioxide over the last 61 years, upwards from an initial reading of 313 ppm in March of 1958, according to The Independent.

"The average growth rate is remaining on the high end," Keeling, who directs the Scripps CO2 program, said in a statement reported by The Independent. "The increase from last year will probably be around three parts per million whereas the recent average has been 2.5 ppm. "[It's] likely we're seeing the effect of mild El Niño conditions on top of ongoing fossil fuel use."

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions reached a record high in 2018 of 33.1 gigatons (Gt) of the greenhouse gas, up 1.7 percent from the year before, according to the most recent calculations from the International Energy Agency.

Related Articles Around the Web
From Your Site Articles

    EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

    Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) speaks during the North American Building Trades Unions Conference at the Washington Hilton April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zach Gibson / Getty Images

    Colorado senator and 2020 hopeful Michael Bennet introduced his plan to combat climate change Monday, in the first major policy rollout of his campaign. Bennet's plan calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank," using $1 trillion in federal spending to "catalyze" $10 trillion in private spending for the U.S. to transition entirely to net-zero emissions by 2050.

    Read More Show Less
    Foto-Rabe / Pixabay

    When Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in August 2018, its own estimates said the reduced regulations could lead to 1,400 early deaths a year from air pollution by 2030.

    Now, the EPA wants to change the way it calculates the risks posed by particulate matter pollution, using a model that would lower the death toll from the new plan, The New York Times reported Monday. Five current or former EPA officials familiar with the plan told The Times that the new method would assume there is no significant health gain by lowering air pollution levels below the legal limit. However, many public health experts say that there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure, which has long been linked to heart and lung disease.

    Read More Show Less
    Sponsored
    A crate carrying one of the 33 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Columbia is lifted onto the back of a lorry before being transported to a private reserve on April 30, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

    By Andrea Germanos

    Animal welfare advocates are praising soon-to-be introduced legislation in the U.S. that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

    Read More Show Less
    A tornado Monday in Union City, Oklahoma. TicToc by Bloomberg / YouTube screenshot

    Extreme weather spawned 18 tornadoes across five states Monday, USA Today reported. Tornadoes were reported in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arizona, but were not as dangerous as forecasters had initially feared, the Associated Press reported.

    Read More Show Less
    A woman walks in front of her water-logged home in Sriwulan village, Sayung sub-district of Demak regency, Central Java, Indonesia on Feb. 2, 2018. Siswono Toyudho / Anadolu Agency /Getty Images

    A new study has more than doubled the worst-case-scenario projection for sea level rise by the end of the century, BBC News reported Monday.

    Read More Show Less
    Sponsored
    Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images

    The Guardian is changing the way it writes about environmental issues.

    Read More Show Less
    Blueberry yogurt bark. SEE D JAN / iStock / Getty Images Plus

    By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

    Having nutritious snacks to eat during the workday can help you stay energized and productive.

    Read More Show Less
    A 2017 flood in Elk Grove, California. Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

    By Tara Lohan

    It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.

    Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.

    Read More Show Less