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Scientists have recorded the highest level of CO2 emissions on earth since records began

The last time earth’s atmosphere contained this much CO2 was more than three million years ago

Image: Shutterstock/Jeff Zehnder

SCIENTISTS IN THE United States have detected the highest levels of planet-warming carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere since records began.

It has sounded new alarm over the rise of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, which has tracked atmospheric CO2 levels since the late 1950s, detected 415.26 parts per million on Saturday morning.

It was also the first time on record that the observatory measured a daily baseline above 415 ppm.

The last time earth’s atmosphere contained this much CO2 was more than three million years ago, when global sea levels were several metres higher and parts of Antarctica were blanketed in forest. 

“It shows that we are not on track with protecting the climate at all. The number keeps rising and it’s getting higher year after year,” Wolfgang Lucht, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said. 

“This number needs to stabilise,” he added. 

Levels of CO2 - one of a trinity of greenhouse gases produced when fossil fuels are burnt – are climbing at a rapid pace. 

Ralph Keeling, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s CO2 programme, said the trend would probably continue throughout 2019 — likely to be an El Nino year in which temperatures rise due to warmer ocean currents.

“The average growth rate is remaining on the high-end. The increase from last year will probably be around 3ppm whereas the recent average has been 2.5ppm,” he said. 

“All of human history has been in a colder climate than now.”

“Despite the Paris climate agreement, despite all the speeches and the protests — we are not seeing that we are bending the curve yet,” he added.

Paris agreement

The 2015 Paris agreement calls for efforts to block the rise in earth’s temperature from rising above two degrees. 

The last four years were the four hottest on record and, in spite of the Paris deal and increasing public awareness of the problem, mankind continues to break its own emissions records, year on year.

Earth’s average surface temperature has already increased by one degree since pre-industrial times due to man-made emissions.

While there is some disagreement over what would constitute ‘safe’ atmospheric CO2 levels, there is a broad consensus that 350ppm – a level surpassed in the late 1980s – would stave off runaway global warming.

© – AFP 2019

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