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Carbon dioxide in atmosphere is at its highest in 3 million years!

Posted by Maria Cristina Chiulli on

According to a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report, the last time carbon dioxide levels were this high was 3 million years ago when temperature was 2°–3°C (3.6°–5.4°F) higher than during the pre-industrial era, and sea level was 15–25 meters (50–80 feet) higher than today.

Earth first passed the 400 million parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere in 2013. Rather than take it as a dire warning, we have seen it rise slightly in subsequent years. In 2018, the concentration was 407.4 parts per million (ppm). This year, CO2 concentrations are predicted to peak at 417 ppm. 

Coal and crude oil contain carbon that plants have pulled out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis over million of years. Human activity has returned that trapped carbon back into the atmosphere. Elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide are a hallmark of the climate crisis since they are associated with higher temperatures, melting ice and sea level rise, among other effects. 

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is also notable for its contribution to ocean acidification. When CO2 reacts with water molecules, it produces carbonic acid and lowers the ocean's pH. Already, the ocean's surface pH has dropped from 8.21 in pre-industrial times to 8.10. 

(source: EcoWatch)

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