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Atmospheric CO2 concentrations reach 415 ppm

28 May 2019

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels hit another record high—CO2 concentrations reached 415 ppm this month, for the first time in human history, according to data by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. The last time CO2 concentrations were at 415 ppm was likely close to 3 million years ago.

Not only are atmospheric concentrations still climbing, but the rate seems to be accelerating [4227]. The annual average increase has been hovering around 2.5 ppm in recent years, and will probably be around 3 ppm this year, according to scientists of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography’s CO2 Program, which monitors CO2 concentrations at the Mauna Loa Observatory.

[SVG image]
Atmospheric CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa Observatory, 1958-2019

(Data: Scripps CO2 Program)

The data clearly shows that we are not on a pathway to stabilize CO2 concentrations, and that the political effort to reduce emissions has not been effective. On the contrary, the global economic growth requires more and more energy, which is supplied predominantly by fossil fuels.

Energy demand worldwide grew by 2.3% in 2018—the fastest rate in a decade—according to recent data by the International Energy Agency (IEA). About 70% of this increased energy demand was supplied by fossil fuels.

NOAA’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI) tracks the relative climate-forcing influence exerted by carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases since the start of the industrial revolution. This year it rose to a value of 1.43, meaning that the increase in the atmosphere’s heat-trapping capacity attributable to human activity has risen 43% since 1990.

The rate of methane increase has also accelerated over the past five years, jumping 50% since 2007-2013. Methane is 28 times more potent than CO2 in trapping heat in the atmosphere over 100 years and exerts the second largest influence on global warming behind carbon dioxide.

Source: AFP | NOAA