We Are Hot-Boxing Ourselves With Dangerous Gases at a Furious Pace

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=63693187">Lasse Kristensen</a>/Shutterstock

Global greenhouse gas emissions were way up in 2012, which shows that the world’s (admittedly limited) efforts to stop hot-boxing ourselves with dangerous gases aren’t going very well.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased by 2.67 parts per million last year. That puts us at 395 parts per million, according to scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—which is already well past the 350 ppm that some scientists say is ideal for keeping the planet livable. The Associated Press first reported on the jump in emissions:

That’s the second highest rise in carbon emissions since record-keeping began in 1959. The measurements are taken from air samples captured away from civilization near a volcano in Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

More coal-burning power plants, especially in the developing world, are the main reason emissions keep going up—even as they have declined in the U.S. and other places, in part through conservation and cleaner energy.

Scientists note that this is the second-largest annual increase in CO2 that they’ve seen since they’ve been recording it. Only 1998 was higher, at 2.93 parts per million. Between 2000 and 2010, humans put an average of 2 million additional ppm into the atmosphere each year.

All of this is just another indication that we’re likely to blow right past the goal of keeping the global average temperature increase to 2°C (3.6°F) that world leaders have agreed to and continue on toward 4° or more by as early as 2060.


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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.