Earth’s carbon dioxide levels reach near-record high

May 10, 2013
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Earth’s carbon dioxide levels reach near-record high

According to scientists and researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, carbon dioxide levels on Earth have reached a level that hasn't been seen in at least three million years. Scientists believe that large changes in the climate and sea levels are to blame for the rising amount of carbon dioxide.

Specifically, researcher say that carbon dioxide has reached an average daily level over 400 parts per million, which won't mean anything to the average person, but the researchers says that this is the highest level that they've observed since before mankind even existed. The last time that levels were this high was during the time period called the Pliocene, when the climate then was much warmer, ice caps were smaller, and sea levels may have been as much as 80 feet higher. To put 400 parts per million in simple terms, it basically means that if you filled up one million quart jars with air, about 400 of them would be all carbon dioxide.

This is also a reminder that all of the hard work that people have done over the decades in order to control emissions has "failed miserably," as one researcher puts it. Environmental agencies and even the government has been involved in trying to cut down on emissions, but it seems the problem is much larger than anyone expected.

Then again, researchers say that levels will dip just slightly over the summer, as the growing leaves on trees will remove around 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the air worldwide. However, the level is expected to rise again in the fall and winter, and eventually, researchers say that carbon dioxide will reach 400 parts per million 24/7, no matter what season it is outside.

So what would happen if carbon dioxide levels kept rising? According to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the results could obviously be deadly. Not only can you not breath carbon dioxide, but the climate could eventually get to a point that isn't a tolerable threshold" for humans to survive in. And while 500 parts per million doesn't seem like a lot, research suggests that carbon dioxide is great at trapping heat near the surface of the Earth, even at extremely low levels.

SOURCE: The New York Times

IMAGE CREDIT: EMSL


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