Carbon dioxide in atmosphere hits record-high levels

Government scientists monitoring the health of the skies from atop Mauna Loa Observatory on Hawaii’s Big Island are reporting that carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have reached record-high levels in the global atmosphere after growing at an accelerated pace over the past year.

CO2, mostly from burning of coal, gasoline and other fossil fuels, traps heat that otherwise would radiate into space. Scientists estimate that before the industrial age, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was about 280 parts per million. Average readings at the 11,141-foot Mauna Loa Observatory, where CO2 density peaks each northern winter, hover around 379 parts per million today, compared with about 376 a year ago.

Climatologists are reacting to the recent Mauna Loa findings with speculation that atmospheric CO2 levels have jumped even more than usual during the past year due to rapid industrialization and development in China and India—and the resulting increase in the burning of fossil fuels—may be the culprit this time around.

Global temperatures increased by about one degree Fahrenheit during the 20th century. Scientists project that atmospheric CO2 concentrations by 2100, if unchecked, will range from 650 to 970 parts per million, resulting in average global temperature rising between 2.7 and 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.