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Pollution may threaten Australian region's claim to 'world's cleanest air'

MELBOURNE, May 11 — An Australian region's claim to having the cleanest air in the world may be under threat, with pollution levels steadily rising in the area.

Cape Grim, on the north-western tip of the island state of Tasmania, is known for having the freshest air on earth, but on Tuesday it was revealed that carbon dioxide readings in the area were poised to hit an all-time high.

Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), which has maintained a testing site in Cape Grim since 1976, announced pollution in the Tasmanian area would touch 400 parts per million (ppm) within two to three weeks.

When testing began exactly 40 years ago, the pristine area's base figure was 300ppm — meaning the air has become 33 percent more polluted between 1976 to 2016.

CSIRO consultant Paul Fraser said the reading should serve as an ominous warning for climate change sceptics.

"(Climate change) is going to continue to increase and there has to be a point before it gets to say 500 parts per million where we get that increasing CO2 (carbon dioxide) under control, otherwise we're going to have some pretty serious climate change problems," Fraser told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Wednesday.

The Cape Grim site — which receives its weather from the southern Indian Ocean — is one of three laboratories on the planet that tests the purity of air through baseline carbon levels.

Baseline carbon levels measure the amount of CO2 in the surrounding air, giving a strong indication of air quality.

Fraser said carbon dioxide levels would skyrocket past 500ppm in the next three decades, if further climate-change action was not brought on by Australian and world leaders.

"We do hope to slow it down, eventually stop it from growing, but the time scale for that is decades into the future, if the right policies about controlling CO2 emissions are adhered to," Fraser said on Wednesday.

"At the moment, it's rising at about 3 parts per million per year, so on that sort of time scale it would take another 30 years to reach 500 parts per million, for example, which we hope it never does."

Without intervention, Fraser said worldwide CO2 levels would continue to warm the atmosphere and destroy priceless marine sanctuaries, such as the Great Barrier Reef, through ocean acidification. (PNA/Xinhua)

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