Recent numbers published by NOAA show that the monthly global average for CO2 has surpassed 400 parts per million in March — for the first time since record keeping began in 1959.
Now seems like a good time to invest in Kentucky oceanfront property.
This is the first time that the global levels of CO2 have achieved this average since the record keeping began. In a recent statement, the lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, Pieter Tans, said:
It was only a matter of time that we would average 400 parts per million globally… We first reported 400 ppm when all of our Arctic sites reached that value in the spring of 2012. In 2013 the record at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory first crossed the 400 ppm threshold. Reaching 400 parts per million as a global average is a significant milestone.
This marks the fact that humans burning fossil fuels have caused global carbon dioxide concentrations to rise more than 120 parts per million since pre-industrial times… Half of that rise has occurred since 1980.
What makes this really bad news, though, is that the International Energy Agency reported that the global emissions from human fossil fuel usage stalled in 2014, hovering at about the same rate as they were in 2013. This hasn’t been enough, though: NOAA data shows the average growth rate for CO2 concentration went up by an average of 2.25 ppm per year from 2012 to 2014.
It was the highest ever recorded over three consecutive years, and proof that even if humans stopped all greenhouse emission today, the results from earlier emissions would continue to be felt for years, if not decades, after the fact.
The average is expected to stay above 400 ppm throughout May, as spring is usually when global carbon dioxide concentrations peak as a result of natural cycles compounding the existing greenhouse gases. The blooming of plants in summer is expected to drop the CO2 levels.
This is a dismal milestone. And while it may have been higher at other points in history — for instance, the Ordovician saw 4500 ppm — it’s important to remember that human civilization was not around then.
The world is going to be fine; there’s no danger of our planet turning into Venus any time soon. It’s our civilization everyone should be worrying about, since the twin punch of climate change and economic inequality may well be the answer to our part of the Fermi Paradox.