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Climate-warming gas levels rising faster than ever, scientists warn

Climate scientists say humans are to blame for the surge in carbon dioxide, which is released by burning fossil fuels.
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Posted at 8:16 PM, Jun 06, 2024

Earth's climate, scientists say, is racing into uncharted territory.

In new findings released Thursday, researchers at NOAA, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and UC San Diego say heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere surged faster and higher than ever this year to a level never seen in human history.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide reached just under 427 parts per million in May, when carbon dioxide levels peak, according to NOAA. 2022 to 2024 saw the largest two-year jump ever.

"What is really surprising to me is the fact that we have a major increase in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, not just in one year, but rather two years in a row of sustained large increases," said John Miller, a climate scientist at the NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory.

Global carbon dioxide concentrations increased more rapidly from January to April this year than in any other year, NOAA said.

Climate scientists say humans are to blame for the surge in the greenhouse gas, which is released by burning fossil fuels. CO2 and other gases trap heat in the atmosphere like a blanket, driving global temperatures higher.

"In the case of climate, we are not the dinosaurs, we are the meteor," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Wednesday. "We are not only in danger, we are the danger, but we are also the solution."

2023 was the hottest year on record. Climate scientists say the extra heat in the atmosphere is already leading to more extreme heat waves, flooding and more powerful hurricanes, along with severe droughts and wildfires.

So far in 2024, the U.S. has already experienced seven weather or climate disasters costing at least 1 billion dollars each, according to NOAA.

Tackling a warming planet, say scientists, means tackling carbon emissions.

"The United States has to be in the lead, the United States has to lead the world in addressing global climate change," said science communicator Bill Nye. "And in order to do that, we have to reduce our emissions."