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Atmospheric CO2 Levels reach Historic Levels, Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii warns about Trouble in the Air

The headline from a year's worth of test results on CO2 levels from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii states that the atmospheric CO2 levels may never fall below 400 ppm ever again

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Atmospheric CO2 Levels
Scripps Research Institute numbers show carbon levels at record highs. VOA
  • The headline from a year’s worth of test results on CO2 levels from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii states that the atmospheric CO2 levels may never fall below 400 ppm
  • the more carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere, the more heat will be trapped and the warmer the planet will become
  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says we have to cap the amount of carbon in the atmosphere at 450 ppm

Oct 01, 2016: The atmospheric CO2 levels may never fall below 400 parts per million (ppm) ever again.

That’s the headline from a year’s worth of test results on CO2 levels from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

In a study released this month, lead author professor Richard Betts of the University of Exeter blames the cyclical Pacific Ocean warming phenomenon known as El Nino in part for the grim record. In his research, published in Nature Climate Change, Betts says El Nino “warms and dries tropical ecosystems, reducing their uptake of carbon, and exacerbating forest fires.”

Betts and his colleagues were able to predict this landmark. “I was looking at the numbers this morning,” NASA scientist Ben Poulter told VOA. “It is remarkable that they were able to make these predictions in 2015.”

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Mauna Loa Solar Observatory. Wikimedia
Mauna Loa Solar Observatory. Wikimedia

Carbon dioxide is odorless and tasteless, and it makes up less than 1 percent of our atmosphere. But this small amount of CO2 has a big impact on the planet. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, without the warming of the planet that carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases provide, Earth’s average temperature would fall below freezing.

But that’s where the old saying about too much of a good thing comes into play, because the more carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere, the more heat will be trapped and the warmer the planet will become.

The planet didn’t reach the 400 ppm mark by itself. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels were at 280 ppm. When tests at Mauna Loa began, the level was at 315 ppm. Scientists say human contributions have played a large part in pushing the level over 400 ppm.

All of the carbon people are pumping into the atmosphere is having an impact on the planet. But what exactly is that impact? That’s been the challenge facing climate scientists for decades.

At the very least, according to NOAA, warming can cause “sea level rise, shifting precipitation patterns, expansion of areas affected by drought, increasing numbers of severe heat waves, and more intense precipitation events.”

Changes underway

Already, some places are getting wetter, and some places are getting drier. The good news is that humans are really adaptable. The bad news is that a host of other creatures aren’t.

And it gets worse: A lot of that excess carbon gets absorbed by the world’s oceans, making the water more acidic. NOAA says this interferes with such things as “the ability of marine plants and animals to build their shells,” and that ultimately threatens “a reorganization of the entire marine food chain, which could lead to a mass extinction event.”

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But will all this happen? That’s the the part that concerns climate scientists the most. Hitting 400 ppm means we’re in uncharted territory. The last time atmospheric CO2 levels were this high is unclear, but a number of competing studies put the date at millions of years ago. We may not know whether an extinction event lies ahead, but we can count on weather events like blizzards and droughts becoming more extreme, and more common.

Poulter says the 400 ppm level “tells us that society moving way too fast toward dangerous CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.” So what can we do to fix it?

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says we have to cap the amount of carbon in the atmosphere at 450 ppm. That keeps us below an average global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius, which was the goal set at a 2010 U.N. conference on climate change.

But to do that, the world may need to phase out use of dirty fuel like coal and cut back on oil. And according to the White House, “global emissions would have to decline by about 60 percent by 2050 [and] industrialized countries’ greenhouse gas emissions would have to decline by about 80 percent by 2050.”

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Poulter says, “We’re only about 15 to 20 years away from reaching the 450 ppm target,” which means efforts to cut carbon emissions have to start now. Forty-one nations — including the world’s biggest polluters, the United States, China and those in the European Union — have agreed to reduce their carbon output significantly by 2020.

Studies like the one led by Betts can quickly and effectively tell us if the things we are doing to combat climate change are working. “As countries start to implement reduction plans,” Poulter says, “we can monitor the effects those reductions are having.” (VOA)

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Attention Delhites! Avoid Outdoor Activities as Air Pollution Levels rise in the Capital

Vikas Maurya, senior consultant at Fortis, said preventive measures like avoiding outdoor physical activities like cycling, jogging or any other outdoor exercises should be taken.

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AIR POLLUTION
Motorcycles and vehicles drive on a road while fog envelope the area (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad) (VOA)

New Delhi, November 8, 2017 : Doctors have issued a health advisory asking people to avoid outdoor activities like jogging and cycling as high levels of air pollution in Delhi and NCR can cause chronic lung and heart diseases and also affect the health of expectant mothers.

The smog that has enveloped the region for the past two days can cause allergies or aggravate already existing allergies and decrease lung immunity, according to tips shared by Fortis Healthcare.

ALSO READ India’s Air Pollution 18 Times the Healthy Limit

The high levels of air pollution might also be instrumental in causing premature birth, the doctors warned.

The other harmful effects include decrease in lung function in all age groups, aggravation of pre-existing lung and cardiac functions along with uncontrollable or chronic coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

ALSO READ Drive Safely! Heavy smog covers India, Pakistan, causing accidents and illness

Vikas Maurya, senior consultant at Fortis, said preventive measures like avoiding outdoor physical activities like cycling, jogging or any other outdoor exercises should be taken.

He suggested that air purifying plants like Aloe Vera, Ivy and Spider Plant should be kept at home and in offices.

Fruits rich in Vitamin C, magnesium, omega fatty acids should be consumed more to fight any allergy or infection. “Have herbal ginger and tulsi tea in adequate quantity.”

The doctors said air pollution poses a major health risk and can cause stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases.

ALSO READ 10 Quick Facts About Delhi Pollution Problem

According to the WHO, 92 per cent of the world population lives in areas where the air quality is below WHO standards.

Eighty-eight per cent of premature deaths occur in the low- and middle-income countries, where air pollution is escalating at an alarming rate. (ians)

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Parking Fee Hiked Four Times to curb worsening air quality in Delhi

The pollution level rose to dangerous levels, with 18 out of 21 active pollution monitoring stations recording "severe" air quality.

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AIR POLLUTION
Motorcycles and vehicles drive on a road while fog envelope the area (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad) (VOA)

New Delhi, November 7, 2017 : Authorities on Tuesday hiked vehicle parking fee by four times in Delhi in a bid to curb worsening air quality in the capital as the high-pollution winter months kicked in.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) here to discourage people from using private vehicles as air pollution worsened further and touched more alarming proportions on Tuesday.

ALSO READ Effect of Air Pollution: Escalates Mortality Risk, Besides Causing Deadly Diseases like Lung and Kidney Cancer

The National Capital Region saw its worst air quality and smog situation of the year, which was even worse than a day after Diwali, as a yellow blanket of smog hung heavily in the sky.

ALSO READ Supreme Court Bans Pet Coke and Furnace Oil to bring down Air Pollution in NCR

The pollution level rose to dangerous levels, with 18 out of 21 active pollution monitoring stations recording “severe” air quality. (IANS)

 

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Drive Safely! Heavy smog covers India, Pakistan, causing accidents and illness

Authorities have advised people to limit road travel and wear facemasks to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses

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AIR POLLUTION
Motorcycles and vehicles drive on a road while fog envelope the area (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad) (VOA)

Islamabad, November 6, 2017 : Smog has enveloped much of Pakistan and neighboring India, causing highway accidents and respiratory problems, and forcing many residents to stay home, officials said Saturday.

Pakistani meteorologist Mohammad Hanif said the pollution, caused by dust, the burning of crops, and emissions from factories and brick kilns in Pakistan and neighboring India, was expected to linger until the middle of the month and contribute to smog- a combination of smoke and fog. He advised people to wear facemasks to protect themselves from respiratory ailments.

Mohammad Arshad, a highway police official, said at least 10 people were killed and 25 injured in road accidents linked to poor visibility in various parts of the Punjab province due to smog, since Monday. Authorities have advised people to limit road travel.

Average air pollution in Pakistan’s major cities is about four times higher than the World Health Organization limits.

Similar problems have been reported in the Indian capital, New Delhi, where air quality was rated “very poor” Saturday. Some private schools in New Delhi have suspended sports and outdoor activities.

India’s Supreme Court banned the sale of firecrackers in New Delhi ahead of last month’s Hindu Diwali festival to try to curb air pollution in the city notorious for smog. Though reports said air quality was better than last year, pollution levels in the capital hit 18 times the healthy limit the night after the festival, as many dodged the ban. (VOA)