It is 1957. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography convinced Charles David Keeling to set up a base in Hawaii. The Mauna Loa Observatory presents unbiased data about the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere since 1958.

Why is this so important?

Because the observations maintain the longest, continuous record of this particular data set.  It is far from other sources of air pollution. Furthermore, not influenced by the fossil fuel burning of the cities, as it is on an island, way above (3000 m) sea level. Within only a few years of Keeling setting base it was very clear, that the carbon dioxide levels are rising in the atmosphere. It is of paramount importance that these reading made it possible to compare the results with those recovered from the past.

Scientist are able to capture data from trapped air bubbles in ice cores. Today they can present data 400.000 years back, and that is just incredible! It is clear from the NASA recording, that during ice ages the atmospheric carbon was around 200 ppm (parts per million). During warmer periods it was closer to 300 ppm. After the 1950s we have reached and left behind this 300 ppm, and never looked back.

We are now at levels never seen before in the last half a million year. This is just not something that we can avoid anymore!

Keeling Curve and photosynthesis

An interesting fact about the CO2 levels on an annual basis. Looking at the graph you can see, the concentration drops suddenly from time to time, and then it climbs back up. And why is that? The considerable decrease happened during spring and summer. It is because that is when a chemical reaction called photosynthesis is the most efficient. Throughout photosynthesis plants absorb carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight, and produce glucose and oxygen.

This is one in a million reason why we need to protect biodiversity, and look after our planet. Plants not just absorb and store carbon dioxide, but release essential oxygen.

Although the report never stated what is the reason for the increase, it is not hard to read between the lines. Anthropogenic activities are pushing the limits of the environment, the only question is:

How long we can keep doing it?

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