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Carbon dioxide set an all-time monthly high in May

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Climate Central

With May in the books, it’s official: carbon dioxide set an all-time monthly record. It’s a sobering annual reminder that humans are pushing the climate into a state unseen in millions of years.

Carbon dioxide peaked at 409.65 parts per million for the year, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It’s not a surprise that it happened. Carbon dioxide levels at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii peak in May every year.

montly carbon dioxide copy

The reading from May is well above the 407.7 ppm reading from May 2016. And it’s far above the 317.5 ppm on record for May 1958, the first May measurement on record for Mauna Loa, the gold standard for carbon dioxide measurements. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide stood at roughly 280 ppm.

The new carbon dioxide high water mark follows a report released last week showing that last year, the world saw its second-biggest annual leap in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s second only to 2015, a year in which El Niño helped boost levels. Both years saw jumps that were roughly double the increase seen in 1979 when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration started keeping the index.

The rise in carbon dioxide is tipping the climate into a volatile state, one in which Arctic sea ice is scraping the bottom of the barrel, oceans are rising and causing flooding even on sunny days, and the earth has warmed 1.8°F above pre-industrial levels. As carbon dioxide levels continue to increase, those impacts will only become more pronounced.

carbon animation

Click here to view animation of how carbon dioxide moves around the planet

There’s a finite amount of climate pollution that humans can emit before we blow past the world’s main climate goal of 2°C. If emissions continue on their current trajectory, we’ll create an atmosphere unseen on this planet in 50 million years. Back then, the earth was 18°F warmer and the Arctic was more like the tropics with palms on the shores and crocodiles prowling the shallows.

The U.S. pulling out of the Paris Agreement will likely make it harder for the world to meet a goal of staying below 2°C of warming. But some U.S. states and cities are already planning to pick up the slack created by the federal government, and there’s also evidence global carbon dioxide emissions have plateaued.

Even if they have peaked, emissions still need to get down to zero to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Until then, each passing year will see a new carbon dioxide high.

Source: Climate Central. Reproduced with permission.  

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  • Ren Stimpy

    Donald Trump. Crimes against humanity?

    • solarguy

      I thought that before the bastard became President. I believe he will go down in history as the worst US President ever and I can’t see him getting a second term.

      • Ren Stimpy

        In most of his appearances and Tweets he’s just scratching around for things to say. He is ENTIRELY unqualified for his job.

        To have the audacity to even apply for that job makes him summonable for charges of irresponsibility. Let’s get this happening and then we can get back on track with progress.

        • Joe

          Before becoming Prez the Donnie he had no record of public service so his NON qualification was already there for everyone to see. He is a blowhard bullyboy and his record in business life shows what an awful human being he is.

          • Ren Stimpy

            Maybe if someone actually showed him what the volume of a tonne of CO2 looks like, then showed him how the US emits 7 BILLION of those in CO2e each year! Really go back to basics – pictures not words – for the big guy.

          • Shane White

            I very much doubt he’d give a sh1t.

          • Ren Stimpy

            Yeah seems like it, probably be a waste of time.

        • Shane White

          What progress?

  • Chris Schneider

    They don’t need to get to zero that is incorrect. Please make sure you know what you are talking about! It’s really important to not be found in a lie with this stuff. One piece of BS creates an air of inaccuracy. Just one example of the use of CO2 “100–115 thousand million metric tonnes of carbon into biomass per year.”

    I found this on Wikipedia but the orginal is Field CB, Behrenfeld MJ, Randerson JT, Falkowski P (July 1998). “Primary production of the biosphere: integrating terrestrial and oceanic components”. Science. 281 (5374): 237–40. Bibcode:1998Sci…281..237F. doi:10.1126/science.281.5374.237. PMID 9657713.

    You need to ensure you stay factual so we can rely on your site. The lower our emissions but to say we need to get to Zero is one incorrect and two not something people ever believe we can achieve (we breath it out too!)

    • Shane White

      Chris I think the term you’re searching for is “carbon-floor”.

      For a safe climate not only do anthropogenic emissions need to be negligible, but massive amounts of carbon must be sunk by negative emission technologies (NETs). For example, Hansen and Co. have calculated that if emissions reduce at -3%/yr starting in 2020, the amount of carbon to sequestered is equivalent to the amount absorbed over about 40 years by all Earth’s land and oceans.

      Put simply, our net emissions must be very negative before century’s end and we need to start now.

      • DogzOwn

        How about carbon equilibrium, except got up and went already, especially in land of the fare go.

        • Shane White

          I don’t understand any of that sorry.

  • Shane White

    Here’s something just as worrying: https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/global.html
    Scroll down to “Annual Mean Global Carbon Dioxide Growth Rates”

    So how’s that whole “action-on-climate-change” thing going humanity? I see the rhetoric has been sorted out, all looking very green. I hear looks are very important.

  • Im an idiot

    I heard mention of a new web site in NSW that forecasts the number of days in different locations that will experience temperatures above 35C in summer. Predictions are that we will see 3 times as many by 2030 or something like that. Welcome to the realities of Climate change. I find it quite depressing.