Carbon dioxide levels highest in 4 million years

The world is getting warmer, and now scientists say that carbon dioxide levels at the South Pole are the highest they have been in 4 million years.

In a statement released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, levels detected on May 23 showed carbon dioxide levels at more than 400 parts per million. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are blamed for contributing to global warming.

Because fossil fuel emissions are the primary source of carbon dioxide, the South Pole’s remote location made it the last place on Earth to show signs of increasing carbon, according to Pieter Tans, with the NOAA Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.

“Global (carbon dioxide) levels will not return to values below 400 ppm in our lifetimes, and almost certainly for much longer,” Tans said in an NOAA statement.

Carbon dioxide levels normally rise and fall depending on the time of year, as plants consume the gas through photosynthesis. But plants only consume a fraction of available carbon dioxide, and levels of the gas have risen every year since measurements began in 1958, according to the NOAA. The rising carbon dioxide levels are caused by human activities, said Tans in the statement.

“Since emissions from fossil fuel burning have been at a record high during the last several years, the rate of (carbon dioxide) increase has also been at a record high. And we know some of it will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years,” Tan said.

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