According to greenhouse emissions monitoring experts, last month Antarctica’s CO2 concentration surpassed 400 parts per million. The primary driver for greenhouse gas pollution is fossil fuel consumption.
The remote location of Antarctica seemed to have protected the area until now, even though the upward CO2 trend was present there as in the rest of the world.
Experts say that there is no chance for the global CO2 levels to return to lower levels in the next centuries.
The CO2 levels commonly decline in summer as plants consume the carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis. During fall and winter, the CO2 levels rise.
However, plants can only capture a fraction of the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere. The rest of it accumulates to the CO2 emissions from the year before, thus since 1958 when the observations started the carbon dioxide level continues to rise.
“The far southern hemisphere was the last place on earth where CO2 had not yet reached this mark. Global CO2 levels will not return to values below 400 ppm in our lifetimes, and almost certainly for much longer,” said Pieter Tans, the lead scientist at the Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
The CO2 level in 2015 was 399 parts per million, which makes 2016 the year when the level will reach 400 parts per million. Scientists wonder if the lowest month in emissions too will surpass this record mark.
The annual rate of increase seems to become more and more abrupt. For example, Mauna Loa observatory from Hawaii measured a rate of 3.05 parts per million in 2015, which would be the highest yearly increase in the 56 years of observations.
A part of 2015’s increase was related to El Nino, the cyclic Pacific warming that causes ecosystems to lose the stored CO2 through wildfires, heat waves, and drought.
Another negative record is the fact that 2016 would be the fifth consecutive year when CO2 levels will rise with more than two parts per million.
Experts say that it had been proved for many years now that the carbon dioxide increase is caused exclusively by human activities. As fossil fuel emissions had an ascending pattern in the last decade, the CO2 rate had consequently followed the same record trend.
Scientists warn that a part of the CO2 will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years.
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