3 Things to Know: Record Levels of Carbon in the Atmosphere

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report on Monday 2/10/2020 showing that the daily average of CO2 levels in the atmosphere have hit record highs.

Here are 3 Things to Know about that report:

  1. What does this mean? The daily average of CO2 levels reached 416.08 parts per million this week. That means for every million particles of air, there are 416 particles of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Sure, that may not seem like a lot, but trust me…it is and it matters. Scientists began measuring CO2 levels in 1958 when there were less than 320 parts per million, however from ice core samples that have been retrieved from the Earth’s poles, they have been able to determine there has been drastic increases in levels starting with the beginning of the industrial revolution in 1760. Although carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is what keeps our planet warm, livable and our oceans from freezing, too much carbon dioxide will act like a giant blanket covering the Earth and not allow heat to escape back into space, thus resulting in the overall warming of the planet.
  2. What are the impacts of all that carbon? As I mentioned, carbon dioxide naturally shows up in the atmosphere and without it, life as we know it would not be able to survive on Earth. However, as we see increased and unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide enter the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels and other human-caused emissions, we will also start seeing an increased number of side effects.
    1. Increased land and ocean temperatures. Nature and life is a delicate balance of many factors one of them being temperature and when that scale is tipped too far in one direction, which we are seeing from increased carbon, we will start seeing many consequences such as mass extinction of species, higher water levels in the oceans, and increased numbers of devastating and destructive weather patterns.
    2. Impacts to human health. Breathing higher levels carbon dioxide can have many negative effects to humans such as headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing, high blood pressure and in some cases even death.
  3. What can I do? There’s many small changes that you can make in your daily life that when scaled among many people, can make a massive difference in the amount of carbon that’s put into the atmosphere from humans. Here’s just a few examples.
    1. Skate more, drive less. Each gallon of gas used by your car emits 20 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere and the average driver consumes 500 gallons of gas per year. I don’t have a calculator in front of me, but even I can tell, that’s a lot of carbon.
    2. Eat less meat. Animal based diets have a bigger carbon footprint than vegetables, with beef being the biggest offender. I’ll save you from all of the boring details, but mixing in a salad once in a while is not only good for your health, but good for the environment as well.
    3. Eliminate “single-use” from your vocabulary and actions. Think about all of the things you use once and then throw in the trash; straws, napkins, water bottles, plastic grocery bags, the list goes on and on. Each of these items are produced using fossil fuels which emits carbon into the atmosphere and with most of them being non-recyclable, when throwing them in the trash, it’s compounding our waste problem. When possible, reusables is the answer.

Now that you have this information, what's next? Should you freak out and start wearing an oxygen tank whenever you leave the house? No. Sell any beachfront property and move to higher ground? Real estate is hot right now, so not a bad idea, but still, no. Should you completely change your lifestyle, go vegan and live off the grid? No, that's not the answer either.

The more you can keep this knowledge at the front of your mind and think about it when you make decisions such as drive vs. walk, plastic bags vs. reusable, hamburger vs. salad, it will be a small step in the right direction and every bit counts.