CO2 Emissions May Have Just Reached Key Turning Point, Scientists

Industrial air pollution

A new study suggests that El Niño has pushed CO2 concentrations to a point of no return.

BEACON TRANSCRIPTA group of scientists claim that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will no longer get below the 400 parts per million (PPM) limit ”within our lifetimes.” Researchers based their grim prediction on the measurements done by the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

Researchers at the Hadley Centre in U.K. and Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California explained that pre-industrial CO2 levels were 280 ppm. Yet, since the Industrial Revolution those levels continued to rise as six-decade-old measurements conducted at Mauna Loa have shown.

But the rise in CO2 concentrations was not even. They went up and down every year leading to a saw-toothed curve on scientists’ reports. Researchers link these variations to the life cycles of vegetation across the planet.

Study authors noted, however, that in the long run the concentrations keep climbing because plants and other carbon sinks can’t absorb all greenhouse gas emissions.

The first time CO2 levels passed the 400 ppm threshold was last year when the Hawaiian observatory reported a 400.9 ppm record. But last year there were instances when concentrations sank below that level due to the vegetation.

But according to the new study, we will never see those levels go below that limit within our lifetimes. Scientists think that the major cause behind the shift was the recent El Niño event. El Niños can boost CO2 concentrations worldwide because they promote wildfires and dry out vegetation.

So, study authors believe that CO2 concentrations would not fall below the 400 ppm limit this fall for the first time in recorded history. In fall, CO2 levels are historically at their minimum because trees and other plants prepare to enter winter.

But researchers don’t think that the changes may have visible outcomes. They released the numbers just to make people aware of the impact of their activity on the system.

The study also suggests that El Niño will continue to push CO2 concentrations by 3.15 ppm each year. This is even more than what the last El Niño event managed to do: a 2.9 ppm rise in CO2 levels on a yearly basis.

NOAA reported that this weekend concentrations were at 407.26. But the agency noted that these levels should start to slip as we get closer to September

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