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The CO2 Speedometer

How has the Earth’s atmosphere changed during your lifetime?

Discover the speed of rising Carbon Dioxide (CO2) concentrations with this clever interactive graphic which you can CLICK to pause and restart. To help you make sense of the speed of change, and our CO2 budget limits, here is a challenge for you

  • Click on the animation to pause on 2 dates:
    1. the year you were born
    2. the year 2019 when MDDC made its Climate Emergency declaration
  • For each year, note the level of CO2 in the atmosphere.
  • How much has it changed in your lifetime?

A snapshot of the climate spiral animation

How fast have CO2 levels changed in the Queen Elizabeth II’s lifetime?

  • They reckon back in 1876, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were about 289 ppm (parts per million) and 50 years later when the Queen was born in 1926 it was around 306 ppm. 
    That change of 17 ppm in 50 years (averaging 0.34 ppm per year) was set to accelerate. 
  • By the time the Queen was 50 years old in 1976 CO2 was at 332 ppm, rising 26 ppm in 50 years. The Silver Jubilee was in 1977. 
  • By the Queen’s Golden Jubilee year in 2002 CO2 levels reached 372.5 ppm, rising 40.5 ppm in just 26 years. 
  • By 2015 CO2 levels reached 399.6 ppm, up 27.1 ppm in 13 years (over twice the 1926-1976 average rise). 
  • During 2021 the annual mean rate of growth was 2.38 ppm per year and by 2022 the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year, the CO2 concentration trend had risen above 417 ppm. 


Now what?

This short article was just a way to help grasp the astounding scale of this atmospheric change. The animation illustrates why we have a Climate Emergency, because we do not have time to delay seismic and meaningful global action to address climate change. Taking action is the best remedy against feeling overwhelmed – so what might you do? 

Carbon Savvy’s Mukti Mitchell suggests “how to increase your quality of life while doing your bit to reduce climate change” with his Top Ten Actions. (Here’s a flyer.)

There’s no pressure to do the whole list all at once, but how about choosing your favourite first, and then enjoy the benefits of your lifestyle change? The Carbon Savvy carbon footprint calculator will help you track the difference you’re making to the climate, too.


Table: Atmospheric CO2 Levels


CO2 Concentrations

in Parts Per Million (ppm)


289 ppm


+50 years later = 306 ppm


+100 years later = 332 ppm


+126 years later = 372.5 ppm


+146 years later = 417 ppm


+150 years later = ?


+200 years later = ?