A record has just been set for the highest ever reading for the level of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere. The reading was recorded on May 11, 2019, and was 415.26 ppm (parts per million). That is the highest level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since humans have been on Earth.
The record-setting reading was taken by sensors at the Mauna Loa Observatory, a research outpost of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). Reports suggest that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is important because it has heat absorbing properties. NOAA says that CO2 is sort of like leaving bricks in a fireplace, the bricks are able to continue emitting heat after the fire goes out.
NOAA says that greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere help the planet to maintain a temperature that can sustain life, but too much in the atmosphere can trap additional heat and cause temperatures to rise. NOAA says that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is responsible for about two-thirds of the total energy imbalance that is causing temperatures to rise on Earth.
Some estimates claim that climate change linked to carbon emissions will cost the US $500 billion per year by 2090. The rise in CO2 is definitely caused by human activity; primarily fossil fuel burning says Scripps geochemist, Ralph Keeling. The scientist says that fossil fuel burning isn’t natural and therefore the recent increases in carbon in the atmosphere, oceans, and land biosphere can’t be natural either.
Keeling notes that while the levels of CO2 in their air may not be unprecedented, the pace of the rise “probably is.” He notes that few if any natural processes can release fossil carbon into the atmosphere as fast as humans are doing it now via the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.