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Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Levels Reach New High

Last week, scientists made a monumental announcement about the current and future states of Earth’s climate.

On October 5, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) announced that carbon levels in the atmosphere have reached 400 parts per million, which is a number that many climatologists have described as a mark of danger to human society.

The data that caused the announcement were gathered at the Moana Loa Observatory in Hawaii, one of the most important places in the world for environmental and climate research.

The data collected at the observatory convey that for every million particles of atmosphere, 400 of those particles are carbon dioxide molecules. While this might seem like an incredibly small number, most scientists state that the ideal measurement for life on Earth is 350 parts per million, a number which we surpassed long ago.

After analyzing the data, scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography state that carbon levels will not be below 400 parts per million within the foreseeable future. As a “greenhouse gas,” carbon dioxide stores heat very easily. This means that the more carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere, more heat will be trapped in it as well.

The announcement of the 400 ppm measurement comes as a milestone to many scientists and climatologist who link rising carbon dioxide levels to human activity and industry.

“CO2 concentrations haven’t been this high in millions of years. Even more alarming is the rate of increase in the last five decades and the fact that CO2 stays in the atmosphere for hundreds or thousands of years,” said NASA scientist Dr. Erika Podest.

In the United States, the largest producer of carbon dioxide emissions each year is electricity, with transportation producing the second-highest amount.

Over the past few decades, world leaders and environmentalists have come together in attempts to confront the increased carbon emissions and to develop ways to stop or mitigate the warming of the climate.

In 2007, world renowned author and environmentalist Bill McKibben started a campaign called “350,” which name refers to the number of carbon dioxide particles that is considered a “safe upper limit.”

The movement spread across the world as volunteers mobilized to raise awareness of the condition of the climate and to advocate for stricter policies regarding carbon emissions.

Last year, world leaders met in Paris to discuss the growing environmental issues and to set goals to improve the outlook for the world’s climate.

One of the goals set by the Paris conference is to prevent global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius, which would cause sea-level rise and an increase in deadly climate events like hurricanes.

Scientists are not yet sure of how much of an effect that the new carbon dioxide measurements will have on global temperature, but many are calling for world leaders and global citizens to make decisions that can prevent the levels from rising even higher.

Dr. Podest stated that ”This milestone is a wake-up call that our actions in response to climate change need to match the persistent rise in CO2. Climate change is a threat to life on Earth and we can no longer afford to be spectators.”









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Savannah is a senior at Appalachian State majoring in English with a concentration in professional writing and a double minor in geology and communication. She enjoys hiking, doing yoga, watching scary movies, and playing with her 6 dogs. A lover of the environment and natural history, Savannah hopes to do communication work for the National Park Service after graduating.
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