On May 25, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere scaled another psychologically important and immensely worrying peak, going past 410 parts per million (ppm). According to reports, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are now at the highest levels. Over the past couple of years, they have increased faster than probably ever before.
Mauna Loa Observatory has been recording atmospheric carbon dioxide levels since its establishment in 1956. In 1958, CO2 levels were at 280 ppm. In 2013, it crossed two-fold mark by surpassing 400 ppm. Since 2013, CO2 levels have been revolving around 400 ppm mark.
According to reports, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noted in a release on March 10 that CO2 had risen by 2 ppm or greater for a record five years in a row, and “the rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age”.
CO2 is one of the several gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere, creating the “greenhouse effect” that keeps the Earth from getting too cold for life. But if the CO2 increases, extra heat is trapped in the atmosphere, and global average temperatures begin to rise. The more the CO2, the greater the atmosphere’s capacity to trap heat.
Carbon dioxide is one of the major contributors that cause a change in Earth’s climatic conditions. The only thing that can be done to prevent the climate from degrading further is to reduce the amount of CO2 released into the air by human activities.
Similarly, a drought caused by a strong El Nino event could trigger a spike in CO2 levels. A minor comfort is that concentration levels could fall below the 410 ppm mark as daily measurements fluctuate — but if there is no drastic action, there could be no reversal.