As of Friday, scientists report that CO2 levels in the atmosphere have “broken through a symbolic mark,” according to BBC news, showing levels higher than ever before. Measurements taken daily (for nearly half a century) by a US government agency lab in Hawaii have reached 400 parts per million. The last time this “heat-trapping” gas having reached these levels dates back to three to five million years ago, before modern human life.
According to the New York Times, scientists see this as a bad sign for climate change and rising sea levels: “It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.
Carbon Dioxide levels regularly rise and fall with the changing seasons, but experts say the moment is approaching when no measurement will produce a reading below 400 ppm.
Many countries have adopted an official limit of CO2 levels to restrict the damage, with 450 parts per million seen as the maximum level. “Unless things slow down, we’ll probably get there in well under 25 years,” Ralph Keeling, climate scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography said.
For many years, Americans have topped the charts on fossil fuel consumption, which has proved to directly correlate to increasing levels of CO2. If this trend toward rising CO2 levels continue, there will be little opportunity left to turn things around.
“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.