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City gasps for air as carbon dioxide levels shoots up to alarming level

Madurai: The city has to cope with not just unbearably high temperatures, it now has to to deal with soaring carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere as well.

A field survey by a team from the school of energy, Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU), has shown the carbon dioxide (CO2) level in Madurai is higher than the global average of 402 ppm in the past one year.

Former vice-chancellor of Periyar University, and chairman of the school of energy, MKU, K Muthuchezhian said the team had been monitoring the carbon dioxide levels continuously for the past two years, on a monthly basis, and noted that there was an alarming level of CO2 in the environment. The quantum of this gas has increased by 3.05 parts per million (ppm) in 2015-2016 and is the highest in 50 years at the global level; it had increased by 2 ppm per year in the last four years.

The team's research conclusions are in line with the findings of researchers from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who found that 2015 marked the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew more than 2 ppm. CO2 levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years and it is explosive compared to natural processes.

The levels of greenhouse gas were independently measured by various scientists and recorded. In February 2016, the average global atmospheric CO2 level stood at 402.59 ppm. In previous years it averaged about 270 ppm. Prof. Muthuchezian said Madurai's average CO2 level stood at 469 ppm in the past one year, which was nearly 65 ppm more than the global average.

The field survey team, comprising four research scholars and two faculty members, conducted their study in seven important places in Madurai city, including Periyar bus stand, Maatuthavani, Arasaradi, Jaihindpuram, and Simmakkal. These places in the heart of the city recorded the highest level of CO2.

During their year-long study, they noted that the mean CO2 level ranges from 445 ppm to 490 ppm and the temperature ranges from 28 to 42 degree Celsius in a year. It is the most significant increase of CO2 level and temperature ever noted in the last 50 years. Emission from vehicles was the biggest cause of the high levels of carbon dioxide.

"The only way to tackle this emission, which could cause a host of ailments, including bronchitis and lung cancer, is to enhance the urban green cover by planting more trees. But with the entire city being paved with concrete, that is becoming an uphill task," he said.

The big jump in CO2 is partially due to the current El Nino weather pattern, as forests, wildlife and other biodiversity resources responded to changes in weather, precipitation and drought. Muthuchelian said that the last time a similar jump in CO2 was observed was in 1998, also a strong El Nino year.Mean CO2 level and temperature in Madurai city during March, 2015 - March, 2016 (mean of 7 locations in Madurai City)

 

Apr 13, 2016, Times of India