Carbon dioxide pollution is one of the driving factors of climate change. The CO2 given off from burning fossil fuels and deforestation makes up over 75 percent of climate pollution every year. At the climate talks in Paris this week, 147 world leaders have come together to try to figure out a way to cut global carbon emissions to keep global temperatures below 2˚C.
To put all of the talk of the dangers of rising CO2 levels into perspective, Bloomberg has created a Carbon Clock that tracks the level of CO2 in the atmosphere in real time. Pulling data from NOAA Mauna Loa Observatory, the clock feeds the numbers from the past few years it into an algorithm that calculates the level of CO2 in parts per million at any given moment.
Pull up the clock right now, and you’ll see levels hovering at 399 ppm. To put that number into context, consider that in 1968, the year the U.S. started measuring CO2 in the atmosphere, we were at 316 ppm. 800,000 years before industrialization, levels hit around 280 ppm. Thought parts per million is a tiny, tiny increment, each increase has a huge effect on the atmosphere (if you divide any molecule of air into a million parts, a certain portion of those parts will be carbon).
The risks of continuing on this current trajectory is clear: if levels continue to rise at this rate, we’ll be up to 450 ppm–the “danger zone”–by 2040. Any higher than that and we’ll start to see the disastrous impacts of extreme weather and rising sea levels.