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Carbon emissions above 400 ppm for third straight month

Throughout April, May, and now June, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has been higher than four parts per million.
Emissions from a coal-fired power plant drift skyward in Ghent, Ky., June 2, 2014.
Emissions from a coal-fired power plant drift skyward in Ghent, Ky., June 2, 2014.

Last May, the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in the history of the human species, a reflection of how much pollution continues to be pumped into the atmosphere. As of last month, industrial civilization has won another dubious achievement: A record-breaking concentration of 400 ppm for three months straight.

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, April, May, and now June have all featured atmospheric CO2 concentrations in excess of 400 ppm. This makes the past three months the first period of such a duration where human activity has contributed to such a high atmospheric level of carbon dioxide.

The announcement comes in the midst of a full-on push by the White House for climate change mitigation. At the beginning of June, the Environmental Protection Agency revealed a draft regulation which would aim to cut power plant emissions by 30% before the end of 2030. The Obama administration is also working to expand protected ocean area, among other policy initiatives to slow the pace of climate change.

The dramatic action required to mitigate the worst effects of climate change is a long time coming. In the meantime, as this week's news and the White House Climate Assessment Report released in May demonstrate, the damage is already being done.