Despite the news that 2015 saw the growth of CO2 emissions stall for the year, the prediction that it won’t hold looks like it will inevitably come to pass. Normally, the level of atmospheric CO2 has been steadily rising by around 2 ppm per year, but 2016 has seen a spike in this. The Met Office now think that in the year that has already smashed every temperature record so far, it will also smash the carbon dioxide concentration record as it increases by 3.15 ppm, plus or minus 0.53 ppm.
While it is only a prediction, the Met Office have been pretty spot on in past estimates. They predicted that the atmospheric CO2 levels would peak at 407.57 ppm in May this year, with official reading logging it at 407.7 ppm. It is unlikely to drop below the level of 400 ppm within the next generation, as the impact of El Nino is continuing to echo through the climate.
Carbon emissions have been steadily climbing, and show few signs of stopping. DyziO/Shutterstock
The figure of 400 ppm is largely symbolic, with no significant impact on the climate system. But it does go to show the effect that humans are having on the environment. The last time it was at these levels was during the Pliocene, when global average temperatures were 3°C (5.4°F) higher than pre-Industrial times, and sea levels were 20 meters (66 feet) higher. It now seems that we are on the track to return to this past.