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2.1 Million-Year High Measured for Carbon Dioxide in Atmosphere

Source:  Copyright 2009, Bloomberg
Date:  June 18, 2009
Byline:  Jeremy van Loon
Original URL: Status ONLINE

Carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere has risen to its highest level in at least 2.1 million years, according to a new investigation of the greenhouse gas’s role in ice ages over the millennia.

Researchers including Columbia University’s Baerbel Hoenisch drilled into the ocean floor off the coast of Africa to remove shells of ancient marine animals called foraminifera that contain climate records, according to the study published today on Science’s Web site. Previous evidence of CO2 concentrations found in columns of Arctic ice go back just 800,000 years.

Carbon dioxide, which traps heat close to earth, is the main contributor to global warming, threatening to raise sea levels and disrupt food production and water supplies, United Nations scientists have said. The marine sediment indicated “stable” levels of atmospheric CO2 at less than 250 molecules per million molecules of air, compared with about 385 today.

“What’s remarkable is how ...

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