Antarctica’s CO2 Levels Are Now the Highest in 4 Million Years

Nothing escapes CO2. Not even Antarctica.

Denis Burdin/<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com">Shutterstock</a>

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Oof. We just passed yet another climate change milestone, and it’s a particularly troubling one. Carbon dioxide levels in Antarctica recently hit 400 parts per million, according to an announcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday. It’s the first time in 4 million years that the region has reached such levels.

Carbon dioxide—a heat-trapping gas produced by burning fossil fuels—is the primary driver of global warming. Carbon dioxide levels have been on the rise all over the world, but because Antarctica is so remote, the pollutant has accumulated more slowly there. Antarctic CO2 concentrations first surpassed the 400 ppm mark on May 23, according to measurements taken at the South Pole Observatory.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“The far southern hemisphere was the last place on earth where CO2 had not yet reached this mark,” Pieter Tans, the lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, said in a statement. “Global CO2 levels will not return to values below 400 ppm in our lifetimes, and almost certainly for much longer.”

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

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Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

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