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May 10, 2010 

Atmospheric Carbon Levels Hit Record High

Statement by Melanie Fitzpatrick, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (May 10, 2013) – For the first time in human history, the daily mean concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million (ppm). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mauna Loa Observatory, near the top of Mauna Loa on the big island of Hawaii, recorded the level yesterday.  The observatory has been documenting global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels since 1958 and maintains the world’s longest unbroken record of such measurements.

Below is a statement by Melanie Fitzpatrick, climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“This needs to be a wake-up call. Reaching 400 parts per million represents a dire experiment with the climate system. As long as humans have walked the Earth, we’ve never seen carbon dioxide levels this high.

“If we don’t reduce carbon soon, we may no longer talk about searing summer temperatures, 100-year storms and intense droughts as something unusual because they may be the norm.

“When I started giving talks on climate change in the early 1990s I was bemoaning the fact that carbon dioxide levels had reached just over 350 parts per million. Now I only wish for that level.

“I never imagined we would allow so much carbon to accumulate in the atmosphere. We knew back then what the science called for and the need to act has only become more urgent.”


The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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