Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Global CO2 Level Reaches Historic High of 400 Parts Per Million

Published: Monday, May 13, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, May 13, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Increasing levels of CO2 will cause average global temperatures to rise.

As the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passes a landmark value, Imperial scientists take stock of implications for our climate.

The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas in the Earth's atmosphere passed 400ppm (parts per million) according to the Mauna Lao Observatory in Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, where researchers have been recording levels of CO2 in the atmosphere since 1957.

Climate scientists are worried that increasing levels of CO2 will cause average global temperatures to rise which will have a significant impact on the planet's climate system.

Two experts from Imperial College London explain the science and what this means for the earth's climate:
- Professor Sir Brian Hoskins FRS, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, and
- Professor Joanna Haigh FRS, Atmospheric physicist and Head of the Department of Physics at Imperial College London

How are CO2 and the climate linked?

Professor Joanna Haigh (JH): The Earth's surface is warmed by radiation absorbed from the Sun, this energy is emitted into the atmosphere as heat radiation. Here some gases, such as naturally occurring CO2, prevent this heat escaping back into space, which keeps the planet warm. This is known as the greenhouse effect. More CO2 traps more heat, and global temperatures go up.

Why take measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory?

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins (BH): If you sampled CO2 in an urban area, we would have passed 400ppm some time ago, but the Mauna Loa observatory is on a volcanic island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. CO2 mixes with other gases high up in the atmosphere so across the globe its level is fairly similar and the measurements on this remote island are more representative of the global average.

Why is 400ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere significant?

JH: In itself the value 400ppm of CO2 has no particular significance for the physics of the climate system: concentration levels have been in the 300s for so long and now we've passed the 400 mark. However, this does give us the chance to mark the ongoing increase in CO2 concentration and talk about why it's a problem for the climate.

Have we reached this level sooner than you would have expected?

BH: Actually, looking at records since 1957 it's not unexpected. I had hoped that international climate negotiations would have constrained CO2 emissions more successfully, but CO2 levels have been consistently rising by about two parts per million per year for the past 20 or so years.

When did we last see CO2 levels this high? What was the climate like then?

BH: The last time in the Earth's history when we saw similar levels of CO2 in the atmosphere was probably about 4.5 million years ago when the world was warmer on average by three or four degrees Celsius than it is today.

There was no permanent ice sheet on Greenland, sea levels were much higher, and the world was a very different place, although not all of these differences may be directly related to CO2 levels.

Can we expect CO2 levels to rise much higher?

BH: We'll certainly see them rise higher than they are now. Given current human activity, levels of CO2 could be near 800ppm by end of Century.

Unless as a society we devise ways to remove CO2 directly from atmosphere, such as through negative emissions technologies, we're going to be stuck with a very slow decrease of CO2 from peak levels, and everybody will have to deal with the implications of global warming.

What does this mean for global warming?

JH: There is no doubt that the average global temperature will continue to increase. Unless swift action is taken to reduce CO2 emissions the planet will warm by more than two degrees Celsius, which is the temperature threshold that scientists are worried about.

How this climate change is distributed across the globe and what the local effects are is much more difficult to predict. It seems likely that weather patterns will shift, so the Mediterranean will get hotter and drier whereas northern Europe will get wetter but we can be far less certain about this than what the average global effect will be.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,200+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Zika Epidemic Likely to End Within Three Years
A team of scientists has predicted that the current Zika epidemic is likely to end within three years because there will be too few people left to infect.
Friday, July 15, 2016
Sound Waves May Hold Potential to Treat Twin Pregnancy Complications
Researchers at Imperial College London have found that the high energy sound waves could treat a potentially deadly complication that affects some twin pregnancies.
Friday, July 15, 2016
Viral hepatitis kills as Many as Malaria, TB or HIV/AIDS
Viral hepatitis is one of the leading killers across the globe, with a death toll that matches AIDS or tuberculosis.
Thursday, July 07, 2016
Supplement May Switch off Cravings for High-Calorie Foods
Researchers have found that inulin-propionate ester supplement curbs cravings for junk food.
Saturday, July 02, 2016
Dengue Virus Exposure May Amplify Zika Infection
Researchers at Imperial College London have found that the previous exposure to the dengue virus may increase the potency of Zika infection.
Friday, June 24, 2016
£14m EU Project To Aid Meningitis Diagnosis and Cut Antibiotic Use
An international team of doctors are aiming to develop a rapid test to allow medics to quickly identify bacterial infection in children.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
New Bio-Glass Could Make it Possible to Re-Grow or Replace Cartilage
Researchers at Imperial College London have developed a material that can mimic cartilage and potentially encourage it to re-grow.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Gene Expression Controls Revealed
Researchers have modelled every atom in a key part of the process for switching on genes, revealing a whole new area for potential drug targets.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Crucial Reaction for Vision Revealed
Scientists have tracked the reaction of a protein responding to light, paving the way for a new understanding of life's essential reactions.
Monday, May 16, 2016
Scans Reveal Babies of Mothers with Gestational Diabetes Have More Body Fat
Researchers at Imperial College London have found that the babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes have more body fat at two months of age compared to babies born to healthy mothers.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
The Brain on LSD: New Scans Show How the Drug Affects the Brain
Researchers at Imperial College London have visualised the effects of LSD on the brain.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Cost of Diabetes Hits 825 Billion Dollars a Year
The global cost of diabetes is now 825 billion dollars per year, according to the largest ever study of diabetes levels across the world.
Thursday, April 07, 2016
World's Obese Population Hits 640 Million
More than one in ten men and one in seven women across the globe are now obese, according to the world's biggest obesity study.
Friday, April 01, 2016
Interactive Maps Reveal Global Obesity
World’s obese population hits 640 million, according to largest ever study.
Friday, April 01, 2016
Switching Off Cancers' Ability to Spread
A key molecule in breast and lung cancer cells can help switch off the cancers' ability to spread around the body.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Scientific News
Liquid Biopsies: Miracle Diagnostic or Next New Fad?
Thanks to the development of highly specific gene-amplification and sequencing technologies liquid biopsies access more biomarkers relevant to more cancers than ever before.
Connectome Map More Than Doubles Human Cortex’s Known Regions
Researchers at NIH have developed software that automatically detects the “fingerprint” of each of these areas in an individual’s brain scans.
Discovered Through ‘Big Data’ Analysis
Researchers at the SBP have identified over 100 new genetic regions that affect the immune response to cancer.
Human Stem Cells to Rapidly Generate Bone, Heart Muscle
A new study shows that combining positive and negative signals can quickly and efficiently steer stem cells down complex developmental pathways to become specialized tissues that could be used in the clinic.
New Mechanism of Tuberculosis Infection
Researchers at UTSW Medical Center have identified a new way that tuberculosis bacteria get into the body, revealing a potential therapeutic angle to explore.
New Therapeutic Targets For Small Cell Lung Cancer Identified
Researchers at UTSW Medical Center have identified a protein termed ASCL1 that is essential to the development of small cell lung cancer and that, when deleted in the lungs of mice, prevents the cancer from forming.
Eliminating Doubt in Criminal Investigations
New ASU certificate to help curb error, misunderstanding in the quest for justice.
Determination of 13 Organic Toxicants in Human Blood
Researchers have utilised liquid-liquid extraction coupling HPLC-MS/MS to identify and quantify organic toxicants in human blood.
A Novel Cell Culture Model For Forensic Biology Experiments
Researchers have developed a new cell culture model which provides an efficient research tool in forensic biology.
Rhino DNA Bank Aids Anti-Poaching Fight
At the University of Pretoria's Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL) at Onderstepoort, Dr Cindy Harper and her team have developed a ground-breaking technique to collect and catalogue DNA from rhinos and rhino horns.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,200+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,800+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!