Years of Atmospheric
Carbon Dioxide History
Ph.D.: Senior Scientist, NOAA's Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics
shows the last 1000 years of atmospheric CO2 history as measured in air
bubbles in ice cores and since 1958 directly in the atmosphere."
Graphic © 2004 by Pieter Tans.
can from the above graph, the level of CO2 in the air has been essentially
flat for 900 years. Then, year after year since 1900, it has gone almost
straight up. For sure, something dramatic has occurred over the past 100
years to disrupt our planet's ability to maintain a healthy balance of CO2
in the atmosphere. To the scientist and the layman alike, this should be
as startling as it is obvious. I suspect it is resulting from a
combination of fossil fuel pollution and increased output of solar energy
from our sun.
make matters worse, we now find ourselves with far less plant life
available to remove CO2 from the air in order to produce the oxygen we
breathe. Equally concerning is the rapid increase in the levels of CO2
absorbed by the oceans, which may now have reached their saturation point.
Further warming of these waters will release the massive quantities of CO2
they hold like a sponge. Finally, as the soil and tundras warm, they too
can release enormous amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Add it all
together and the ingredients for a runaway greenhouse effect and further
global warming are firmly in place. All of the above have been in delicate
balance for ages. That is now changing faster
than those who are aware can
concentrations of CO2, the gas primarily responsible for
climate change, have been rising since records began in 1958. The rate of
increase has risen from around 0.8 parts per million (ppm) per year in the
1960s to around 1.5 ppm per year in the 1990s.
Since 2000 the
pace has accelerated further, with year-on-year rises of 2.1 and 2.5 ppm
peaking with an increase of 3.01 ppm in the 12 months ending in August
2003 (New Scientist print edition, 9 October).