For the first time in millions of years, carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere have risen above 410 parts per million.
According to Scientific American, just a few days ago the observatory on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa recorded levels of 410.28 ppm. Back in 1958, when the first reading at Mauna Loa was taken, it was at 280 ppm. Every year after that has been a little higher.
“It’s pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled,” Gavin Foster, a paleoclimate researcher at the University of Southampton told Climate Central last month. “These milestones are just numbers, but they give us an opportunity to pause and take stock and act as useful yardsticks for comparisons to the geological record.”
Carbon dioxide is one of the driving forces of our rapidly warming climate. Just a few months ago, the newly appointed head of the EPA, Mr. Scott Pruitt, came right out and said it: he doesn’t believe that CO2 is is the leading cause of global warming. This comes in the face of… well, science.
It’s frustrating. Let’s make a comparison. I’m holding a bowling ball in front of Scott Pruitt. “Hey Scott,” I say. “I’m going to drop this bowling ball on your foot. It’s going to drop because of gravity, which is an observable fact proven by science.” Then I drop the ball on his foot, crushing his toes into unrecognizable blobs of broken meat. Scott, trying his hardest not to cry, says, “that bowling ball didn’t drop! Gravity isn’t real! The science is wrong, and Breitbart told me so!” That’s what’s happening with climate change. Scientists say, “hey Scott, here’s proof!” Scott, however, doesn’t believe in proof, no matter how convincingly broken his foot may be.
In one of the year’s most obvious observations, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration named Pieter Tans attempted to prescribe a solution. “The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease,” he said. “But carbon dioxide will still be going up, albeit more slowly. Only when emissions are cut in half will atmospheric carbon dioxide level off initially.”
What that means, in rather depressing terms, is that we’ve already done centuries worth of damage. “The planet has already warmed 1.8°F (1°C), including a run of 627 months in a row of above-normal heat,” wrote Brian Kahn for Climate Central. “Sea levels have risen about a foot and oceans have acidified. Extreme heat has become more common.”
Those are facts, all proven by multiple studies. They aren’t up for dispute. Carbon dioxide levels are higher than they’ve been in millions of years, and we’re to blame.