CO2 levels measured in Hawaii hit milestone not seen in human history

CO2 levels measured in Hawaii hit milestone not seen in human history
A Mauna Loa lab measures carbon dioxide levels in the Earth's atmosphere. (Image: Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere ― measured at a facility atop Mauna Loa ― hit an alarming new daily baseline above 415 parts per million over the weekend.

That’s a first in the modern life of the planet, and comes as scientists are predicting that carbon dioxide levels will increase faster in 2019 than in the last two years.

Greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, are those responsible for climate change.

And on Saturday, Mauna Loa Observatory’s daily baseline measurement for carbon dioxide levels was calculated at 415.25 parts per million.

Earth’s atmosphere hasn’t contained that much carbon dioxide in more than three million years. Back then, the average temperature of the globe was much higher ― and Antarctica had forests.

Ralph Keeling, the director of carbon dioxide program at the Scripps Institution of Oceangraphy — which runs the Mauna Loa lab with NOAA ― said the new baseline high is linked to the ongoing use of fossil fuels and the effects of a mild El Nino.

[Read more: Global carbon dioxide levels measured atop Mauna Loa set a new monthly record]

“Every year it goes up like this we should be saying 'No, this shouldn’t be happening. It’s not normal," Keeling said. "This increase is just not sustainable in terms of energy use and in terms of what we are doing to the planet.”

Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and writer, reacted to the new daily baseline with: “We don’t know a planet like this.”

Climate scientist Peter Gleick, meanwhile, put it this way: “The last time humans experienced levels this high was ... never. Humans didn’t exist.”

Scientists have been recording carbon dioxide levels atop Mauna Loa since 1958. For measurements before that date, researchers rely on data culled from ice cores.

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