Mining
Giant machines dig for brown coal at an open-cast mine in Germany. Photo by AP
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For two consecutive days last week, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the earth's atmosphere exceeded 402 parts per million (ppm,) higher than at any time in at least the past 800,000 years, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Carbon dioxide levels tend to peak in May, which means that they are likely to rise even more. According to an article in Mashable, a news and tech website, the latest figures "put humans into uncharted territory."

Just last month, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a damning report that illustrated the growing dangers of global warming. The panel focused on carbon dioxide emissions and warned about the dangers of inaction.

While some global warming can be attributed to natural trends, the sharp increase in CO2 levels since the advent of industrialization indicates that much of it is man-made; the UN report affirmed with 95% certainty that humans have "been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century."

Over time, high CO2 concentrations can lead to rising sea levels, heat waves, droughts and floods, posing great risk to coastal communities and human food supply. Experts believe that these worsening environmental conditions could exacerbate existing civil conflicts regarding land, food and water.

"Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy. Denial of the science is malpractice," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last month.