Earth has passed an “unfortunate milestone,” read an email alert sent out last Saturday evening Australia time. “During the last 4 days, the CO2 [carbon dioxide] levels at Cape Grim have risen above 400 parts per million (ppm),” Paul Krummel, an atmospheric scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organisation (CSIRO) wrote to scientists.
Although the measurement was expected, it is a clear warning that the level of atmospheric CO2 is entering dangerous territory, up from 280 ppm at the start of the industrial age around the year 1800. Scientists figure that the accumulation of greenhouse gases has pushed global temperatures up nearly 1.5°C since 1850. They estimate that 2°C of warming will occur at 450 ppm. Under the Paris agreement, reached at last December’s climate conference, 195 nations pledged to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to below 2°C above preindustrial levels.
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