Antarctica’s CO2 Levels Are Now the Highest in 4 Million Years

Nothing escapes CO2. Not even Antarctica.

Denis Burdin/<a href="">Shutterstock</a>

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Oof. We just passed yet another climate change milestone, and it’s a particularly troubling one. Carbon dioxide levels in Antarctica recently hit 400 parts per million, according to an announcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday. It’s the first time in 4 million years that the region has reached such levels.

Carbon dioxide—a heat-trapping gas produced by burning fossil fuels—is the primary driver of global warming. Carbon dioxide levels have been on the rise all over the world, but because Antarctica is so remote, the pollutant has accumulated more slowly there. Antarctic CO2 concentrations first surpassed the 400 ppm mark on May 23, according to measurements taken at the South Pole Observatory.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“The far southern hemisphere was the last place on earth where CO2 had not yet reached this mark,” Pieter Tans, the lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, said in a statement. “Global CO2 levels will not return to values below 400 ppm in our lifetimes, and almost certainly for much longer.”

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend