The Keeling Curve, whose daily measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) in Mauna Loa have demonstrated how rapidly fossil fuel emissions are altering greenhouse gases, recently received $1 million in funding from the Schmidt Family’s Foundation to sustain future operations.
“More than ever, we need good data to inform our critical policy decisions, and the Keeling Curve is an essential measurement of a changing climate,” said Wendy Schmidt. The Schmidt Ocean Institute also furnished a $450,000 grant to measure changes in seawater chemistry in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Charles David Keeling initially started taking these daily measurements at Hawai’i’s Mauna Loa Observatory – as well as Arctic and Antarctic stations – in 1958. And, Keeling’ son, Ralph, has continued these efforts into the present day. Since the initial measurement of 313 ppm CO2 measured just over 50 years ago, atmospheric CO2 has increased by 100 ppm CO2 – a rate that is 100 times faster than prior natural increases.
Despite the critical climate trends that the Keeling Curve has revealed and life-altering research it has made possible, scientists have struggled to consistently fund the long-term dataset. Funding from the Weather Bureau helped launch the dataset and it has since been maintained by a patchwork of short-term grants. This is partially because federal funding for long-term research has declined in favor of studies and grants spanning approximately three years.
A budget shortfall in 2013 led to crowdfunding efforts that raised a little over 2% of what is needed to operate the monitoring program each year. It was at this critical juncture that the Schmidts first provided support so that three years’ worth of backlogged samples could be analyzed. And, their most recent contribution will help fund the measurements through 2025.
“Atmospheric CO2 is an important bottom line for the climate problem,” said Ralph Keeling, “We are very grateful to be able to continue this important work.” ”