The Science: The Paleontological Record

The Paleo-record to the Present: Rising Levels of CO2

  • The paleontological record of tree rings and ancient ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica reveal the history of the Earth's temperature and carbon dioxide levels. Though studying this paleo-record, scientists estimate that the pre-industrial level of CO2 at 270 part per million.
  • Systematic tracking of the Earth's atmospheric CO2 levels begins in 1958 at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory—CO2 level measured at 314. Since then, carbon dioxide levels worldwide have been consistently rising.
  • By 1988, atmospheric CO2 had increased to 360 ppm, a 15% increase in just 30 years.
  • Similarly, the Earth's surface temperatures have risen steadily for over 30 years.
  • CO2 levels continue to rise and by 2001 stood at 371 ppm.
  • The rising CO2 trend is accelerating and the 1997-98 increase in the annual growth rate of 2.87 ppm is the largest single yearly jump since the Mauna Loa record began in 1958.
  • Humanity is now dumping over 10 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere—per year. And as long as we continue to burn fossil fuels, we will continue to dump heat trapping gases into the atmosphere.
  • Today, in spite of over a decade's worth of lip service paid to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, CO 2 levels continue to rise unchecked.
  • The National Center for Atmospheric Research estimates that, at present rates, atmospheric CO2 levels will be double pre-industrial levels by 2030.

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