Last year, our planet experienced several record-breaking milestones in terms of high temperature. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we also managed to breach a long-standing record involving carbon dioxide. Specifically, the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere surpassed the 400 ppm (parts per million) record it hit back in 2013. The last time our planet had that much carbon dioxide in the air was millions of years back, when our earliest predecessors were probably using stones as tools; the world was a few degrees hotter; and sea levels were several meters higher.
After reaching that alarming milestone in 2013, scientists warned that the situation was degrading even further and that within only a short period of time, we would break that record again. And they were right.
On April 18, 2017, scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii recorded our planet’s most grim milestone yet: our atmospheric carbon dioxide level is now at 410.28 ppm. And while this may not necessarily result in immediate dramatic changes in our climate, it’s still a grave reminder of how much we are trashing our planet.
Scientists first began measuring atmospheric CO2 content in the 1950s. Back then, when the industrial revolution hadn’t begun yet, the amount of CO2 in the air was only 280 ppm. But an extremely powerful El Nino took place, causing a number of forest fires that released a considerable amount of stored carbon into the atmosphere, driving up carbon dioxide levels. And human activities entered the picture, most notably, the relentless burning of fossil fuels to generate power and electricity. Our atmosphere didn’t stand a chance. From 280 ppm, atmospheric carbon dioxide content increased by about 42% to its current level.
What exactly do these horrible numbers mean for us? Simply, carbon dioxide is the primary contributor to climate change. Which is why there’s a global initiative to reduce carbon emissions. Only by decreasing our carbon footprint will we be able to save our planet from further degradation and the fast-approaching apocalyptic effects of climate change.
As explained by US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) atmospheric scientist Pieter Tans in a press release: “The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease. 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.”
As scientists continue to warn us of the ominous trend towards worsening global conditions, it seems our government wants to continue believing otherwise. Just recently, well-known astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson posted a video on his Facebook page with a staunch warning about how ‘science deniers‘ will bring about the demise of our ‘informed democracy’, and a grave reminder to let science do what it is supposed to — serve our civilization. And less than a week ago, a historic Earth Day March for Science Protest was held, again underscoring how scientists are become increasingly concerned about the way the current administration is handling matters related to science.
With carbon dioxide levels expected to rise rather than fall, and a government that seems intent on going against what scientific experts are recommending, the future isn’t really looking great right now, especially for those who believe in what science is telling us.