Some Carbon Budget Numbers

The Keeling Curve shows that there is currently 406 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric carbon dioxide at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory. The highest concentration over the last year was a little above 410 ppm. It was around 340 ppm when I was born.

One-year Keeling Curve

It’s believed that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has not been this high for 3-20 million years. Below is the view for the last 800,000 years. Compare the slope of the last few decades to the rest of the record.

800,000 year Keeling Curve

Keeling Curve credits: Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

Random: how much CO2 is a ppm? It’s around 7.8 gigatons of CO2.

Net CO2 emissions are around forty gigatons per year right now. That averages to a little more than 2.5 million pounds per second. It’s hard to imagine how much this is, so let’s think about it in terms of Saturn V rockets. The Saturn V was the largest rocket ever launched and was used to send humans to the moon. A fueled Saturn V weighed 6,540,000 pounds, which is 3,270 tons. Thus, 40 gigatons is around 12.2 million Saturn Vs of mass. We are adding 12.2 million Saturn V rockets of CO2 mass per year to the atmosphere.