The Slatest

U.N. Report Finds Carbon Dioxide Levels Rising at Unprecedented Rate

The coal-fired Jaenschwalde power plant in Germany.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

A new U.N. report shows levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rising at a record-breaking rate, and scientists believe the record high levels are the result not only of emissions, but also of oceans’ and plants’ increasing inability to absorb excess CO2.

From the Washington Post:

…The WMO’s data for 2013 shows the global average level of atmospheric carbon at just under 400 parts per million, about 40 percent higher than in ­pre-industrial times and higher than in any other period in at least 800,000 years. The symbolically important threshold of 400 parts per million — described by scientists as the level at which more dramatic climactic impacts become likely — will probably be crossed in the next two years, the report said.

And from liberal news site ThinkProgress:

As the WMO notes, the ocean currently soaks up about a quarter of human-caused CO2 emissions, which has reduced the amount of observed carbon in atmosphere. However, the WMO report says the ocean’s capacity for absorbing carbon is decreasing, which will eventually lead to a speed-up in atmospheric warming. Indeed, the ocean’s ability to hold carbon is only 70 percent of what it was at the beginning of the industrial revolution. By the end of the twenty-first century, it could be reduced to 20 percent, the WMO said.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels aren’t the only thing that increased this year: This January, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found that 23 percent of Americans do not believe that global warming is happening, up 7 percent from April of 2013.