The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego received a $500,000 grant over five years from Wendy and Eric Schmidt to support the Scripps CO2 program, which maintains the Keeling Curve measurement of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
CO2 Group Director Ralph Keeling said the grant will make it possible for his team to restore atmospheric measurements that had been discontinued for lack of funding, address a three-year backlog of samples that have not been analyzed, and enhance efforts to educate the public about the role carbon dioxide plays in climate.
“The Scripps CO2 Project is critical to documenting the atmospheric changes on our planet and the Keeling Curve is an essential part of that tracking process,” said Wendy Schmidt, who co-founded The Schmidt Family Foundation and The Schmidt Ocean Institute with her husband, Eric. “As government funding for science in general is decreasing, Eric and I are delighted to work with Scripps to help it continue its benchmark CO2 project.”
The Schmidt Family Foundation advances the development of renewable energy and the wise use of natural resources in The 11th Hour Project grants, which support more than 150 nonprofit organizations in climate and energy, ecological agriculture, human rights, and maritime projects.
The Keeling Curve has measured carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a flagship station on Mauna Loa in Hawaii since 1958. In addition, the Scripps CO2 Group measures carbon dioxide levels at several other locations from Antarctica to Alaska.
The measurement series established that global levels of CO2, a heat-trapping gas that raises atmospheric and ocean temperatures as it accumulates, have risen substantially in the past century. From a concentration that had never risen above 280 parts per million (ppm) before the Industrial Revolution, CO2 concentrations had risen to 315 ppm when the first Keeling Curve measurements were made.
In 2013, concentrations at Mauna Loa rose above 400 ppm for the first time in human history and likely for the first time in 3 million to 5 million years. Multiple lines of scientific research have attributed the rise to the use of fossil fuels in everyday activities.
Keeling Curve creator Charles David Keeling, Ralph Keeling’s father, received several honors for his work before his death in 2005, including the National Medal of Science from President George W. Bush.