The global concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – the primary driver of recent climate change – has reached 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in recorded history, according to data from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.
Since 1958, the Mauna Loa Observatory has been gathering data on how much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide has increased by about 24 percent since the beginning of this record. (Source: NOAA)
We rounded up a few scientists here at NASA and asked them what passing 400 ppm means to them.
Passing the 400 mark reminds me that we are on an inexorable march to 450 ppm and much higher levels. These were the targets for ‘stabilization’ suggested not too long ago. The world is quickening the rate of accumulation of CO2, and has shown no signs of slowing this down. It should be a psychological tripwire for everyone.
– Dr. Michael Gunson
Global Change & Energy Program Manager; Project Scientist, Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite mission – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
CO2 concentrations haven’t been this high in millions of years. Even more alarming is the rate of increase in the last five decades and the fact that CO2 stays in the atmosphere for hundreds or thousands of years. This milestone is a wake up call that our actions in response to climate change need to match the persistent rise in CO2. Climate change is a threat to life on Earth and we can no longer afford to be spectators.
– Dr. Erika Podest
Carbon and water cycle research scientist
We are a society that has inadvertently chosen the double-black diamond run without having learned to ski first. It will be a bumpy ride.
– Dr. Gavin Schmidt
Climatologist and climate modeler at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Scary scorecard: catastrophic climate change 400, humanity zero. Listen to the scientists, vote wisely, beat carbon addiction and put humanity into the game.
– Dr. William Patzert
As a college professor who lectures on climate change, I will have to find a way to look into those 70 sets of eyes that have learned all semester long to trust me and somehow explain to those students, my students – who still believe in their young minds that success mostly depends on good grades and hard work, who believe in fairness, evenhandedness and opportunity – how much we as people have altered our environment, and that they will end up facing the consequences of our inability to act.
– Laura Faye Tenenbaum
Oceanography Professor, Glendale Community College; Communications Specialist for NASA’s Global Climate Change Website
Press link for more: climate.nasa.gov