What is ppm?

Just like we use metres to measures distances, we use ppm to measure CO2 levels. "Ppm" means "parts per million". In other words, 400 ppm means that there are 400 particles of CO2 for every million particles of air. This might not sound like a lot, but it has a big effect.

Why does this exist?

The global level of carbon dioxide and its rate of increase are two of the most important factors in deciding the future of our civilisation and life on Earth.

This widget exists to make these two ideas readily available to anyone in the world, be they a farmer, a lawyer, a child or a retiree.

One might argue that these numbers aren’t of relevance to some people, but then one could argue the same of the FTSE, S&P, Nikkei etc., and certainly the global CO2 level is of much greater consequence. We also appreciate that this kind of numerical information does not necessarily motivate change when communicated in isolation, however it can form an extremely powerful element of a larger, blended communication strategy.

We believe that, considering its significance, this information needs to be household knowledge, and that it is a very curious thing that it still isn’t.

This is why we have made this widget embeddable, compact, colourful, easy to understand and free, so that news and weather publishers have every reason to use it, and no reason not to.

How does it work?

This widget updates daily and is collecting data from the Mauna Loa Observatory. The measurements are coordinated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The Mauna Loa Observatory is operated by NOAA.

The 7-day average box shows the average of the last 7 days including today. It updates every day.

The 1000 years graph shows the historical context of CO2 levels. It updates every day.

The 20 years graph shows the level of CO2 over the past 20 years, to provide an indication as to whether the rate of increase is slowing down. It updates once annually and does not show a value for the current year.

The “in last 2 years” box shows the difference between the CO2 level today compared to what it was on this same day two years ago. This key element of the widget provides a daily update on the progress the world is making in reducing the output of CO2.

Who’s behind it?

This project is led by Matthew Shribman with the support of Cambridge Zero / University of Cambridge.

Developers: Chris Butterworth, Richard Coates, Rowland Williams, Keith Alexander, Erika Antiche Garzón, Max Palmer

Designers: Bella Soares, Chris Butterworth

Special thanks: Gary Fearnall

The widget is endorsed by the Grantham Institute, the 2 Degrees Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and Reading University’s Department of Meteorology.

Embed instructions and the original report, containing more details about the widget, its ideation and suggestions for further communication, are both available here.