According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the annual peak of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the air is now 50% higher than that of pre-industrial levels. The amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide has reached 419 parts per million in May of 2021, officially surpassing all estimated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels within the last 4 million years.

June 8th, 2021, the NOAA released measurements made by Mauna Loa Observatory, a solar observatory in Hawaii, which demonstrates the gradual increase of mean carbon dioxide levels over a span of years. The NOAA data paints a graphic picture of how poorly international communities are doing in their efforts to mitigate the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gases in Earth’s atmosphere.

Interpreting NOAA’s Data

Peter Tans, a scientist at NOAA’s monitoring lab, said that “we are adding roughly 40 billion metric tons of CO2 pollution to the atmosphere per year”. If we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, the highest priority must be to reduce CO2 pollution to zero at the earliest possible date.” The NOAA reports that “the last time the atmosphere held similar amounts of carbon dioxide was during the Pliocene period, NOAA said, about 4.1 to 4.5 million years ago.”

Moving Forward

Human activities are a considerable source of carbon dioxide emissions which began to at the onset of the industrial epoch. Human infrastructure and industries make use of oil, gas and coal in order to provide ourselves with electricity, make materials and fuel for our means of transportation. The flora of this planet is an essential carbon sink, capable of absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and redistributing it. Without vegetation, less carbon can be cycled into plants and soils beds.

Nonetheless, ceasing all emissions is not presently an option. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions can be done through improved fuel efficiency and designing more conservative (less wasteful) agricultural practices. Achieving the goals in the Paris Climate Agreement will require global communities to champion renewable materials and biodegradable products; this is an example of a change which can be made by consumers, without consistently slow measures typically taken by governments or corporate authorities. If our reliance on carbon will be phased out, it must be replaced by renewable energy and technology, which is unfortunately, beyond the power of any individual. Only through proper investments and so called “green” innovations can we secure our future.

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