There is more CO2 in the atmosphere now than at any point in the history of the planet. The Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, reports that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is over 415 parts per million (ppm).
This number exceeds any point in the last 800,000 years. CO2 measuring began in 1958 by the late Charles David Keeling. The famous Keeling curve which visually represents the ever increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is named after the scientist.
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This is the first time in human history our planet's atmosphere has had more than 415ppm CO2.
Not just in recorded history, not just since the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Since before modern humans existed millions of years ago.
We don't know a planet like this. https://t.co/azVukskDWr— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) May 12, 2019
While many climate change skeptics blame the increase in global temperatures on a matter of cycles, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is undeniable.
Even 3 million years ago during the Pliocene Epoch, when global temperatures were thought to be about 2-3 degrees Celsius warmer than today, CO2 levels are believed to be no more than 310 to 400 ppm.
What does it mean?
CO2 in the atmosphere prevents the earth's natural cooling cycle which results in higher global temperatures. The current super-high levels of CO2 are caused by human activity like burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Higher than normal global temperatures affects every natural system.
It has been linked to a rapid loss of ice shelves in both the north and south poles. Increases in temperatures have also caused changes in the behavior of animals and plants that are resulting in both the extinction and increase of certain organisms. Shifts like this can transform food chains and biodiversity systems.
These changes can also affect human food security and the liveability of certain areas. The science related to global temperature range is very clear. Peer-reviewed scientific journals show that if the globe heats up more than 2 degrees there will 25% more hot days and heatwaves.
Mosquitoes enjoy new hot days
In turn, there will be more wildfires and significant impacts on both human and animal health. As well as more hot days, extreme weather patterns are likely to increase, that will put human life in danger.
More than 1 million species also face extinction if temperatures continue to rise. On the flip side, resilient insects like mosquitoes are expected to rapidly rise in number. Possibly increasing the risk of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.
Rapid action now
The only way to address this is rapid and courageous action which includes a drastic cut in carbon emissions, reforestation on a mass scale and the creation of carbon sinks. In addition, the world needs to invest in new technologies for carbon capture and other innovations.
In the words of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there needs to be "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”