How is carbon and temperature linked?

For nearly 200 years, scientists have known about the greenhouse gas effect, the process in which carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases warm the Earth.(1),(2),(3) Historic records going back hundreds of thousands of years, show a strong correlation between temperatures and carbon dioxide levels.(4),(5),(6)

The historic correlation between greenhouse gases and temperatures
Measurements of temperature and CO2 levels taken from ice cores and other natural records reveal a correlation that goes back more than 400,000 years. Temperatures and CO2 fluctuated, in tandem, tens of thousands of years until the recent surge.(7)


Source: Parrenin, F et al. (2013) and L├╝thi, D., M. Le Floch, B. Bereiter, T. Blunier, J.-M. Barnola, U. Siegenthaler, D. Raynaud, J. Jouzel, H. Fischer, K.Kawamura, and T.F. Stocker (2008)

This sudden break in the temperature-CO2 correlation calls for further study. If history plays out again, the spike in CO2 will lead to higher temperaturesthan experienced today.




  1. American Chemical Society
  2. NASA: Global Warming
  3. NOAA: Basics of the Carbon Cycle and the Greenhouse Effect
  4. NASA: Carbon Dioxide Controls Earth’s Temperature
  5. NASA: Global Warming
  6. Royal Society
  7. NOAA: Temperature Change and Carbon Dioxide Change



  1. Average Temperature and Carbon Dioxide over 400,000 Years – NOAA, Pangaea