Recently the two week climate summit occurring in Germany ended with no true progress towards a new climate treaty for nations of the world. During this same time period the International Energy Agency released figures on carbon dioxide emissions in 2011. Carbon dioxide emissions rose to their highest ever recorded level of 31.6 gigatons, an increase of 3.2 percent.
Unfortunately the International Energy Agency indicated that the path we are currently on likely does not limit warming this century to two degrees Celsius, the current global goal. In order to meet this goal carbon emissions will need to be limited to 32.6 gigatons by the year 2017. However, this scenario only allows for a 1 gigaton rise in emissions between 2011 and 2017 considering 2011 saw 31.6 gigatons.
Now further news out of the Arctic has scientists concerned due to the level of carbon dioxide being measured in the atmosphere. Recent measurements from Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Alaska and Mongolia have all indicated carbon dioxide levels over 400 parts per million. This is the first time carbon dioxide levels have been measured consistently this high across the Arctic. The Earth itself has not had levels this high in more than 800,000 years.
Overall the global carbon dioxide levels are near 396 parts per million and rise by approximately 2 parts per million a year. Despite the Arctic currently being measured at levels at over 400 ppm, the world average is still below 400 ppm. The levels are expected to dip once more due to the summer months when vegetation tends to absorb considerable amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, scientists believe the 400 ppm will be the global average within just a few years.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution and for much of recent Earth history the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was around 275 parts per million. Centuries of fossil fuel use has greatly increased the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to the current level of 396 ppm. However, scientists have indicated that the level needs to be reduced to 350 ppm in order to limit the impacts of climate change globally.