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On Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that atmospheric CO2 concentrations climbed by a record margin last year. Researchers noted that the spike was the highest since records began, 56 years ago.
The new report depicts a grim picture of the greenhouse gas effect and its effect on global warming. NOAA scientists based their report on data collected by the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.
According to the report, CO2 levels in the atmosphere spiked by 3.05 parts per million in 2015, which is the largest leap in more than half of century of measurements.
This year, carbon dioxide levels across the world amount to 402.59 parts per million which is nearly twice as much as preindustrial levels (280 part per million). Pieter Tans of the NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network described the levels as “explosive” when we compare them with natural processes.
But NOAA has also an explanation for the record rise. Besides fossil fuel consumption, the change was triggered in part by El Nino, which raises sea temperature levels, triggers unusual weather phenomena, and promotes droughts in some parts.
Droughts and unusual precipitation prevent forests and other carbon sinks from absorbing carbon at their maximum capacity.
NOAA scientists mentioned that the last time the planet saw a similar spike in carbon dioxide levels was in 1998, which was a year also marked by a strong El Nino event. Fortunately, the impact of El Nino on CO2 levels is natural and relatively short lived.
Researchers at the World Meterological Organization commented on the latest readings, and said that El Nino was only partially a culprit. In their opinion, the main culprit remains man-triggered greenhouse gas emissions.
“We have the power and responsibility to cut these,”
said Petteri Taalas of the WMO.
Taalas also believes that the latest NOAA report should prompt world leaders to approve the Paris Climate Agreement, and take the necessary steps before global temperatures jump by 2 degrees C.
Since 1880, greenhouse gas emissions including CO2 jumped by more than 40 percent. As these gases add up they trap more heat which raises global temperatures and promotes extreme weather events across the planet. So far, 2015 was deemed the hottest year on record.
According to official reports, China and India are the countries with the largest CO2 output. China emits more than North America and Europe combined, while India is quickly catching up with a 5.1 percent increase in 2013, while the U.S. had a 2.9 percent increase in the same year.