The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Association’s Mauna Loa Observatory released findings that revealed the earth’s carbon dioxide level is now the highest it’s been in 800,000 years. The highest point in that period of time was about 310 parts per million (ppm) about 325,000 years ago.

Before last week, when the the discovery happened, the highest level was only last May, when the CO2 level hit 400 parts per million (ppm), formerly the highest in recorded history. Within the last week, the CO2 level broke the record and reached 402 ppm. Experts noted that CO2 levels indeed spike every spring, but oddly, this increase happened two months before it usually does.

James Butler, Director of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division said that rates have increased exponentially. CO2 levels increase “at faster rates virtually every decade,” and the trend “is consistent with rising fossil fuel emissions.”

Scripps Image


The measurement is a very important signpost in the continuing narrative of climate change, and it indicates an ongoing trend in the ever-increasing presence of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. As there is a proven correlation between atmospheric CO2 levels and increasing temperature, increased CO2 levels mean increased temperatures.

Using ice-core samples, scientists are able to study the planet’s CO2 levels as far back as 15 million years ago. Research of the ice-cores have shown that CO2 levels over the world’s history have exhibited steady rises and drops. Since modern study began in 1958, CO2 levels have nearly doubled that of any point in the last 800,000 years.

“The underlying significance of all this is that the rate of carbon dioxide increase is higher than ever at the moment, year after year now it’s been more than 2 ppm per year,” Pieter Tans of NOAA’s Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory. “The increase is manmade . . . This is one of the known things about climate change.”

Throughout the world’s history, there have indeed been significant warming and cooling periods, and the CO2 levels have fluctuated greatly, as research has shown. However, considering the rate at which these levels have increased since the birth of industrialization, scientists can rule out current climate change as a natural occurrence.

Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.