If current trends continue, by the end of this year the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere will have reached a record rate of between 3.2 to 3.55 parts per million (ppm). 2015 also saw a record rate of atmospheric CO2 increase of 3.05ppm.
For perspective, the 1980s and 1990s witnessed annual CO2 increases in the atmosphere of roughly 1.5ppm each year, a rate which had increased roughly 30 percent to 2ppm annually by the 2000s. In other words, thus far, the 2010s are seeing an average rate that will mark another huge increase, to around 2.5ppm annually.
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Prior to the dramatic increases we witnessed last year and this year, humans had never seen two consecutive years of record rapid rates of atmospheric CO2 concentration increase.
Meanwhile, in September, the Earth reached a level of 400ppm CO2 in the atmosphere, and that level is here to stay, according to scientists. This benchmark signifies a new era for the planet.
By next year, the average amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will reach levels not seen since 15 million years ago, during which time seas were roughly 80 feet higher than they are today.
More Records Set
Recent years have seen global CO2 emissions at or near record highs, and there is nothing to indicate this trend will change.
In 1998, global CO2 emissions clocked in at approximately 26 billion tons annually, but by 2015 that amount had escalated to approximately 36 billion tons annually.
The election of Donald Trump as the next US president foreshadows a bleak short-term future, when it comes to emissions. Trump’s climate disruption denialism, coupled with policies clearly aimed at increasing fossil fuel production throughout the US, means that we can expect new records to be set in the coming years.
15 million years ago, when atmospheric CO2 concentrations were as high as they’ve just become, global temperatures were between 3-4 Celsius warmer than they are today.
NASA figures show 2016 well on track to become the hottest year ever recorded.