Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the key drivers of rising temperatures on our planet and a new report shows the Earth’s CO2 levels are breaking records.

Scientists at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory found CO2 is now at the highest level in over 4 million years.

What You Need To Know

  • Global levels of carbon dioxide peak every year in May

  • The last time carbon dioxide levels were this high there were large forests in today's arctic tundra

  • Sea levels were up to 70 feet higher than now, the last time carbon dioxide levels were at this threshold

Carbon dioxide is a gas that is produced by burning fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation, deforestation and farming. CO2 traps heat in our atmosphere and is one of the key drivers of the rising temperatures on our warming planet.

The element lasts in the atmosphere for over 300 years and experts from the observatory say that the carbon dioxide emissions created by the Model T in 1910 are still warming the atmosphere today. The more CO2 that is created, the higher our temperatures climb.

According to the report, the levels of carbon dioxide measured in May are the highest in modern times. They measured it at the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii at an observation that sits at an elevation of over 11,000 feet.

This is a great place to get a measurement without the influence of pollution. Plus, it’s the best benchmark for CO2 recording.

The NOAA researchers found that our atmosphere now has 50% more carbon dioxide in it than it did in pre-industrial times. The researchers say that human activity like farming, driving cars and deforestation cause the rise in the gas.

Since recordings began at the site, levels have increased, and the levels always peak in May. This is just before the northern hemisphere blooms into spring and summer. The green growth of the trees and plants in May and June suck carbon dioxide out of the air and levels drop. They rise again in the early winter months.

The report raises concerns about the rise in CO2 because that will mean more warming to our atmosphere, which will fuel more extreme weather around the world. The report showed that levels of carbon dioxide haven’t been this high in about four million years.

About 3.6 million years ago, the average temperature was about seven degrees warmer than it is now. Also, there were large forests in areas where now there’s arctic tundra.

Many of the areas where we live were underwater. Sea levels were up to seventy feet higher than current levels.

NOAA Administrator Dr. Rick Spinrad said this about the report.

“The science is irrefutable: humans are altering our climate in ways that our economy and our infrastructure must adapt to… We can see the impacts of climate change around us every day.”

He went on the say that this report is a reminder to take urgent steps to become a more climate-ready nation.