For Earth Day 2022, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released a stark reminder of our impact on Earth’s climate: carbon dioxide and methane levels in the atmosphere again reached record highs in 2021.
For the second year in a row, NOAA scientists measured the level of methane in the atmosphere and found the largest annual increase since NOAA started measuring methane in 1983. Methane levels averaged 1,896 parts per billion during 2021, or about 162% greater than pre-industrial levels (before 1750). Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing global warming.
Carbon dioxide, the primary driver of climate change, also hit a record high again last year at 414.7 parts per million. Carbon dioxide (CO2) has increased by about 50% since 1750, driven by fossil fuels and deforestation. This is more than carbon dioxide’s increase over the 20,000-year period from the Last Glacial Maximum to the Industrial Revolution. Scientists say that carbon dioxide emitted today will continue to warm the planet for thousands of years.
Last week, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the world had until 2030 to reduce our carbon emissions by 43%, or the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be out of reach.