How much carbon was in the atmosphere when you were born?

The Results

In YEARVAR, there were
carbon in the atmosphere.

Today, there are
421.55 ppm
carbon in the atmosphere.

That's an increase of
during your lifetime thus far.

These levels are speeding up. As a comparison, carbon only increased
during the USERAGE years before your birth.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is measured in parts per million (ppm).

Data from 1937-2011 is sourced from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Data from 2012-2023 is sourced from the August de-seasonalized averages from NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory.
Line graph showing the rise in CO2 over the course of a millennia.
The relentless rise of carbon dioxide This recent relentless rise in CO2 shows a remarkably constant relationship with fossil-fuel burning, and can be well accounted for based on the simple premise that about 60 percent of fossil-fuel emissions stay in the air. From © NASA

If we split our atmosphere today into 1 million parts, 421 of them would be made of carbon dioxide. And while 421 parts per million (ppm) might not seem like a lot, it’s the most we’ve seen in at least 3 million years. All of this extra carbon dioxide is warming up the planet.

These levels have sped up during your lifetime, but don’t take it personally: that fact is true for everyone alive today. But you know what else can happen in your lifetime? We can take the most important steps to reduce carbon emissions and give our planet the future that is least impacted.

It will take collective action. It will take new technologies. And it will take very old technology—like nature.


Learn more at


Watch Explainer

A Natural Solution To Climate Change

A Natural Solution to Climate Change (3:01) Want to fight climate change? Then we need to phase out fossil fuels as soon as possible—and work more with nature. In fact, protecting and restoring nature could provide 1/3 of the greenhouse gas reductions we need to keep the climate in safe boundaries.
Autumn ferns on the banks of Calavale Brook at the south end of Burnt Mountain preserve, Vermont.
Ferns in the Fall Autumn ferns on the banks of Calavale Brook at the south end of Burnt Mountain preserve, Vermont. Burnt Mountain was acquired by TNC in 2018. It is approximately 5,500 acres along Vermont’s northern border and currently the largest natural area amongst Vermont’s 55 preserves. It is also Vermont’s first carbon project eligible for the California carbon market. Intact and healthy forests such as this clear air, remove pollutants, improve water quality, and the the pace of climate change through carbon sequestration. © Eamon Mac Mahon