Carbon Dioxide Levels Highest Average

B. McPherson
Graphic showing the year over year average of atmospheric CO2. Blue dot Antarctic, red Hawaii
Carbon dioxide levels recorded at the mountain top observatory in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, show a continuing trend higher. Scientific measurements of the atmospheric carbon dioxide were started in 1958 by a scientist at Scripps Institute of Oceanography and have continued under NOAA. While the current measurements are taken in Hawaii at elevation and global averages vary by location and season, one trend is obvious. The atmospheric load of carbon dioxide is increasing. April saw the highest CO2 average to date recorded at 400 parts per million(ppm).

Some of this increase may be due to the northern hemisphere experiencing winter. Plant growth slows in the winter so uptake of atmospheric carbon also slows. Nevertheless, the upward trend is there and the curve is increasing.

The UN scientists have set a figure of 450ppm to limit the world to a 2 to 3 degree Celsius(3.6 F) average increase. When the other greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide are added to the CO2 figures, the equivalent now is 430 ppm.

Greenhouse gases are those that circulate in the atmosphere and aid in conserving the heat from the sun, much like a greenhouse works to hold in the heat. Problems arise when those gases increase to the point where they insulate the Earth too much and global temperatures rise.

This causes many problems to human civilization. Ocean levels rise as water locked in ice sheets melts. Weather patterns are disrupted leading to more extremes of weather. Desertification displaces people who may find their movements violently opposed. Crops may fail as conditions change.

CO2 is present in the atmosphere naturally. Two of the biggest sources are volcanic eruptions and rock weathering. Burning of fossil fuels on a large scale has only been with us for the past 300 years.

It does not look likely that nations are going to agree to cut back on their burning of fossil fuels any time soon. Expensive conferences are held and people agree there is a problem but then the nations continue to talk about production and growth rates. The emerging nations are saying that developed nations should cut back more so they can catch up. Countries like Canada are flogging their petroleum to other nations and those other nations say they need coal and petroleum to fuel their industries.

There is still a group of people who are stalwart in their belief that the Earth’s climate is not changing. There is a great deal of money to be made in marketing coal and petroleum. There is also a great deal of money to be made marketing wind and solar technology.

In any case, whatever path humanity chooses in the near future, the outcomes are guaranteed to be interesting.

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