Tracking carbon dioxide levels

If you’re wanting to keep abreast of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, a great place to get updates is the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide page.

It contains graphs like those below and links to current raw data on carbon dioxide levels. The current graphs show no slowing down of CO2 increases, in fact data from the last 5 years shows a trend of perhaps 2.0 ppm + becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa Observatory Hawaii
The red and blue lines are seasonal, the black, mean reading.
(Image courtesy NOAA)

Global monthly mean CO2 levels (black line) 2002 – 2007
(Image courtesy NOAA)

It’s interesting to note that in early 2005, the NOAA released a statement that in part said:

“March 31, 2005 — A spike in the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere between 2001 and 2003 appears to be a temporary phenomenon and apparently does not indicate a quickening build-up of the gas in the atmosphere, according to an analysis by NOAA climate experts”

It was wishful thinking on their part or perhaps something more, but I won’t get into conspiracy theories here :). It just goes to show how recently we really wanted to believe that global warming wasn’t such a huge threat.

The NOAA’s announcement was a reaction to a drop during 2004 in mean CO2 increases back to 1.65 ppm from 2.23. But then in 2005 and 2006 – and most likely 2007 by the looks of things, global CO2 mean increases suddenly increased to 2.0ppm +

But, whether it’s 1.5, 2.5 or whatever increase, at this stage, *any* ongoing increase in carbon dioxide is not a good thing for our environment. The graph above tells the story and it’s certainly being reflected in our current weather patterns and other odd phenomena. The mind boggles as to what new nasties may wait in store for us.

It will be interesting to watch the readings over the next couple of months to see if the bushfire situation in Australia has any sort of impact on CO2 levels globally. We’ve had well over 2 million acres burned in the last 2 months, and areas are still aflame – that’s an awful lot of smoke added to an already stressed environment.

In 1998, fires in Indonesia destroyed 1 million acres of forests which may help to account for the highest ever carbon dioxide mean level increase of 2.95 ppm (parts per million) that year since Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii started keeping records in 1959.

According to a recent article the Guardian, Scientists have warned that as temperatures rise, our planet might be less capable  of absorbing carbon dioxide, thus accelerating global warming further – a vicious cycle I mentioned in my post on the Butterfly Effect.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) also recently moved the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock to 5 minutes to midnight. This wasn’t just because of increasing threats due to nuclear weapons proliferation, but for the first time in the DoomsDay Clock’s history, also due to an environmental threat – global warming.

We are certainly starting to learn just how small and fragile our planet really is; but in this throwaway society, we are still yet to fully realize that it’s the only one we have.