Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

Earth's carbon dioxide levels hit 4.5 million-year high

The amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has reached its annual peak, climbing to 419 parts per million (ppm) in May, according to scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Why it matters: It's the highest CO2 reading since reliable instrument data began 63 years ago, but evidence shows it's also a peak since well before the start of human history.

  • The rate of increase showed "no discernible impact" from the pandemic-induced economic slowdown, the scientists found.
  • Carbon dioxide is a long-lived greenhouse gas emitted through human activities such as fossil-fuel burning, deforestation and agriculture.

Threat level: Not only is CO2 now at its highest levels in human history, but one would have to go all the way back beyond the beginning of human history — to the Pliocene Epoch, between 4.1 to 4.5 million years ago — to find a time when Earth's atmosphere held a similar amount of carbon.

  • Data gleaned from ice core records and other indicators of what Earth was like at that time serve as a stark warning for our future on this planet, scientists say.
  • Global average sea levels, for example, were nearly 80 feet higher during the Pliocene than they are today, while the global average temperature was about 7°F above the preindustrial era.
  • Studies show that large forests were located in areas of the Arctic that are now home to tundra.

Quick take: The world first passed the 400 ppm threshold in 2013, but took just eight years to climb toward the 420 ppm mark. It's an indication of how countries are failing so far to bend the emissions curve dramatically downward in order to slow, and eventually reverse, global warming.

  • The CO2 concentration figures may seem abstract, but they correspond to the risk of tipping points in the climate system that would have profound societal consequences, such as the melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
  • Numerous studies show that the lower CO2 concentrations are stabilized, the greater the chances that climate change will be more manageable for society and the planet's natural systems.

Details: The 1.8 ppm rate of increase from 2020 was slightly slower than other recent years, but within the range of natural variability.

  • According to NOAA senior scientist Pieter Tans, the temporary pandemic-related dent in global carbon emissions got drowned out by natural variations that affect the rate at which carbon builds up in the air.
  • Tans, as well as Ralph Keeling, who oversees the Mauna Loa observations from his post at Scripps, told Axios they were not surprised the pandemic, which caused a global emissions cut of about 7% in 2020, failed to slow or halt the growth of atmospheric CO2.
  • They each said net carbon emissions have not declined significantly and for long enough to be noticeable. "As long as we keep emitting, CO2 will keep going up. And that's what we see. Even if we manage to freeze net emissions," Tans said, emphasizing the need to reach net-zero emissions as soon as possible.

What they're saying:

  • Keeling told Axios that 420 ppm, which the planet is almost certain to exceed next year, is "a psychological threshold." He added, "We're moving deeper and deeper into a territory we almost certainly never would have wanted to get to."
  • Tans emphasized the long-lived nature of CO2, with each molecule lasting in the air for as long as 1,000 years. "In terms of human civilization, these emissions are forever," he said, endorsing plans to drive emissions down to net zero as soon as possible.

E3 2021: Nintendo and Ubisoft team up again with Switch sequel “Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope"

Two of gaming’s biggest companies are creating a game together for the third time in five years with a Switch sequel, “Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.”

Why it matters: Nintendo rarely lets other companies work with its characters, making its continued partnerships with Ubisoft a rare sign of trust.

Keep reading... Show less

In photos: Harris shows up at Pride parade in downtown D.C.

Vice President Kamala Harris dropped in at the Capitol Pride Walk And Rally in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

The state of play: Harris and second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, joined the crowd, who welcomed them with cheers, according to press reports.

Keep reading... Show less

A "new industrial revolution" presses the reset button on work

The endgame of the pandemic is giving both employers and workers a chance to create a more humane relationship — both in the office and out of it.

The big picture: Companies need workers, but many employees aren't ready to go back to the way things used to be. A hybrid setup could provide the best possible way forward, if both sides are willing to give.

Keep reading... Show less

Blue Origin auctions off a trip to the edge of space for $28 million

A seat aboard Blue Origin’s first crewed flight to suborbital space fetched $28 million during a live auction on Saturday.

Why it matters: While the market for suborbital tourist flights to space may not be huge, experts say it's an important, public-facing part of the space industry that could popularize it as more people start flying.

Keep reading... Show less

Macron at G7: "It's great to have the U.S. president part of the club"

U.S. President Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron were all smiles and handshakes during their first formal, in-person meeting on Saturday, with Macron telling pool reporters "it's great to have the U.S. president part of the club."

Why it matters: Biden has made rebuilding the United States' global leadership central to his foreign policy, frequently touting, "America is back."

Keep reading... Show less

More than dozen injured in downtown Austin shooting

A shooting in a busy part of downtown Austin, Texas, early Saturday injured at least 13 people, including two who are in critical condition.

The state of play: Gunfire erupted around 1:30 a.m. along 6th Street, a popular area with bars and restaurants. The suspected shooter remains at large, Austin police said. "It is unknown if there is one, or multiple suspects involved," they noted, adding the shooting appears to be an isolated incident.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden to urge G7 to take unified approach to countering China

President Biden on Saturday is expected to urge fellow G7 leaders to adopt a unified approach to countering China's rising global influence, AP reports.

Driving the news: The G7 leaders are set to unveil a multi-billion-dollar global infrastructure plan aimed at rivaling Beijing's efforts in the developing world.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories