New data released earlier this week reveals a grim picture of continuously rising carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases linked to a warming climate on planet Earth. Data has been collected since the 1950s at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, but the most recent month measured on average over 410 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Last year, the carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere did exceed this level but not for an entire month. The graph below, courtesy of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, highlights the increasing trend of carbon dioxide:
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is increasing at twice the pace it did 50 years ago. CO2 is a heat-traping compound, so as the Earth lets off warm air, much of it is trapped by the greenhouse gases, such as CO2, in the stratosphere. 410 parts per million (ppm) is a significant increase compared to how it was in the past. In the late-1950s, the concentration of CO2 was at 315 ppm, and even earlier than that time period at the start of the Industrial Revolution, it was at about 280 ppm. The burning of fossil fuels, which leads to emissions, as well as the cutting down of trees, which convert CO2 to oxygen, is the main reason for this continuous increase in CO2.
Based on long-range predictions, if action is not taken to decrease the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, CO2 concentration may return to levels not seen in over 50 million years within the next 30 years. This increase in greenhouse gases is linked to a warming Earth and thus the effects of climate change, such as rising seas and an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events.