March turned out to be a very bad month for global warming, as average global CO2 levels surpassed 400 parts per million during the month, representing the highest CO2 levels seen on Earth on more than two million years.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Thursday, May 7th, that the global monthly average for carbon dioxide hit 400.83 parts per million in March of this year. That is the first month since modern record-keeping began that the global CO2 average was above 400 ppm.
Statement from NOAA scientist
“It’s both disturbing and daunting,” highlighted NOAA chief greenhouse gas scientist Pieter Tans. “Daunting from the standpoint on how hard it is to slow this down.” He went on to say it is disturbing because the increase is happening so fast it seems like an explosion relative to Earth’s slow-moving natural changes.
More on rapidly increasing global CO2 levels
Tan pointed out that carbon dioxide isn’t just a little higher, it is increasing at a record pace, more than 100 times more rapidly than historical increases in global CO2 levels.
Given the continual growth in the burning of coal, oil and gas, global carbon dioxide is up 18% compared to 1980 when NOAA first calculated a worldwide average. Over the 35-year period, carbon dioxide levels were up by close to 61 parts per million. That said, it took about 6,000 years for carbon dioxide to rise about 80 parts per million in prehistoric times.
In typical years, monthly CO2 levels change with the season, peaking in May and then decreasing throughout the year as plants absorb carbon dioxide. Global CO2 levels continue to move up on a year-to-year basis.
Of note, carbon dioxide levels are higher in the Northern Hemisphere because that’s where the most carbon dioxide is being emitted.
The NOAA statement highlighted that the first time levels passed the 400 ppm milestone was in the Arctic back in 2012. Then in 2014, the monthly Northern Hemisphere average (measured in Hawaii) broke 400 ppm, and now the global average has also surpassed that level, noted James Butler, head of NOAA’s global monitoring division.