Monitoring stations in the Arctic this spring are measuring more than 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and that’s bad news new climate change. Scientists say the heat-trapping gas has been rising at an accelerated pace and has reached 395 parts per million globally.
So far, only the Arctic has reached that 400 level, but the rest of the world will follow soon.
“The fact that it’s 400 is significant,” said Jim Butler, global monitoring director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, Colo. “It’s just a reminder to everybody that we haven’t fixed this and we’re still in trouble.”
Carbon dioxide is the chief greenhouse gas and stays in the atmosphere for 100 years. Some carbon dioxide is natural, mainly from decomposing dead plants and animals. Before the Industrial Age, levels were around 275 parts per million.
For more than 60 years, readings have been in the 300s, except in urban areas, where levels are skewed. The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal for electricity and oil for gasoline, has caused the overwhelming bulk of the man-made increase in carbon in the air, scientists say.
It’s been at least 800,000 years — probably more — since Earth saw carbon dioxide levels in the 400s, Butler and other climate scientists said.
We need to take steps now to reduce carbon emissions and move to cleaner forms of energy. That’s why supporting the recently announced greenhouse gas limits in new power plants is important. The EPA’s proposed standard is a positive step to making our energy and air cleaner that will spur innovation in clean energy, leading the way to good jobs and addressing climate change.