Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increased at an unprecedented rate in 2015. It has now reached a record high not seen in thousands of years, according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Measurements from NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii showed that the CO2 level jumped by 3.05 parts per million during 2015, the largest annual increase in 56 years of research.
Carbon dioxide level reaches 402.59 ppm
The last time our planet witnessed such a sustained increase in carbon dioxide was at the end of the last Ice Age between 17,000 and 11,000 years ago, when it increased by 80 parts per million (ppm). But the current increase is 200 times faster than then. Researchers said 2015 also marked the fourth consecutive year that CO2 concentration grew more than 2ppm.
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As of February, the global atmospheric CO2 concentration was 402.59 parts per million. This is a significant jump from the pre-industrial times when it averaged 280ppm. Pieter Tans of NOAA said carbon dioxide levels are rising faster than they have in “hundreds of thousands of years.” The jump can be attributed to a combination of man-made greenhouse gas emissions and a weather phenomenon called El Nino.
El Nino is a short-term phenomenon
Though the current El Nino is now dying away, it has been one of the strongest on record. It caused unusual precipitation and drought patterns, resulting in higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. CO2 remains in the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years, causing the planet to warm further by trapping heat. It is rising rapidly at a time when world leaders are trying to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The rest of the growth is due to continued emissions from fossil fuel consumption. Scientists said the impact of El Nino was a natural and relatively short-term phenomenon. But human activities are the main long-term drivers of greenhouse gas emissions. The latest report should be a wake-up call to governments to take urgent actions to reduce CO2 emissions.