Carbon dioxide levels recorded in Hawaii continue to rise - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Carbon dioxide levels recorded in Hawaii continue to rise

John Barnes John Barnes
Jeff Sutton Jeff Sutton
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Scientists say the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is reaching historic levels and they don't appear to be coming down.

Carbon dioxide comes mostly from burning fossil fuels and of course it's what humans exhale. We humans have never lived with so much around us.

According to the EPA the most carbon dioxide comes from electricity, transportation and industrial work. Emissions in the United States have increased 10 percent since 1990.

Since the 1950's carbon dioxide levels have been recorded on Mauna Loa Observatory on the Big Island and it's approaching the 400 parts per million mark.

"We haven't seen this amount of carbon dioxide in the last million years or so," said John Barnes, Ph.D., Mauna Loa Observatory Station Chief.

Scientists say it means the Earth is changing, specifically the ocean.

"As far as ocean acidification that's very clear. Even if there is no warming, if you put more carbon dioxide into the air it has to go into the ocean some of it," said Dr. Barnes.

There are also predictions that it will produce stronger storms and longer droughts but that part is still unproven.

"That's the big problem. The system is very complex so it's hard to model it accurately enough to get the predictions," said Dr. Barnes.

And don't blame the volcanoes say geochemists who work on Kilauea.

"The amount of carbon dioxide coming from volcanoes being less than 1 percent of human activity it's a fairly insubstantial amount," said Jeff Sutton, Research Geochemist at USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. "The number of active volcanoes has been relatively constant but the amount of human activity and human activity that generates carbon dioxide has increased greatly since 1900."

The majority of CO2 comes from humans burning oil, coal and natural gas. China produces the most carbon dioxide followed by the United States.

As to the skeptics, scientists point to the melting arctic ice caps at the North Pole.

"Thirty-five percent of the ice has disappeared up in summer time in the arctic. They're now talking about being able to sail through there from say Europe to Asia which has just never happened before," said Dr. Barnes.

And since we can't stop breathing the discussion needs to continue.

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