Unexpectedly Intriguing!
18 January 2023

Earth's economic growth, as measured by the pace at which carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere, slipped a bit during December 2022. That mildly negative change indicates the global economy stagnated as 2022 ended, continuing the mostly flat trend established since the end of the third quarter of the year.

That's how we're reading the latest data tracking changes in the Mauna Loa Observatory's ongoing measurements of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere. Here's the picture.

Trailing Twelve Month Average of Year-Over-Year Change in Parts per Million of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, January 2000 - December 2022

The stagnation at the global level during the fourth quarter of 2022 coincides with three major regional developments:

  • The U.S. economy continued experiencing positive growth following its technical recession during the first half of 2022, though with signs of slowing growth.
  • The Eurozone experienced slow-to-negative economic growth conditions resulting from ongoing disruptions stemming from Russia's 24 February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
  • China's economy slumped to its slowest growth in decades because its government's nearly three year old policy of zero-COVID lockdowns and their resulting economic disruption. The government didn't reverse its ham-handed policy until the end of December 2022 following widespread political protests.

December 2022 also saw a change in how the Mauna Loa Observatory goes about collecting its measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. With the eruption of the Mauna Loa volcano, the Observatory suspended its CO₂ data collection on 29 November 2022 after a lava flow took out power lines and blocked staff access to the observatory. The Observatory's data for December 2022 was collected at the Maunakea Observatories, which are 21 miles north of the Mauna Loa Observatory.

On a final note, we're happy to welcome Environmental Economics' John Whitehead and Tim Haab back to the world of active blogging following their prolonged stints in the glamorous role of administration at their respective universities!


National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Earth System Research Laboratory. Mauna Loa Observatory CO2 Data. [Text File]. Updated 6 Janaury 2023. Accessed 6 January 2023.


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