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Smokestacks at a coal power plant. Photo: Charlie Riedel / AP

The average concentration of atmospheric CO2 around the world reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400 ppm in 2015, per a report from the UN's World Meteorological Organization. The last time levels of CO2 were this high on Earth was 3 to 5 million years ago — a time when the global "temperature was 2–3°C warmer and sea level was 10–20 meters higher than now."

The big picture, via the WMO: "This record annual increase of 3.3 ppm was partly due to the strong 2015/2016 El Niño, which triggered droughts in tropical regions and reduced the capacity of 'sinks' like forests, vegetation and the oceans to absorb CO2."

  • "The rate of increase of atmospheric CO2 over the past 70 years is nearly 100 times larger than that at the end of the last ice age. As far as direct and proxy observations can tell, such abrupt changes in the atmospheric levels of CO2 have never before been seen," the group said.
  • However, while CO2 emissions from human activities were again at record levels in 2016, the annual increases slowed and even plateaued, the report notes.

Go deeper

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.

Exclusive: Hundreds of kids held in Border Patrol stations

Migrants cross the Rio Bravo to get to El Paso, Texas. Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty Images

More than 700 children who crossed from Mexico into the United States without their parents were in Border Patrol custody as of Sunday, according to an internal Customs and Border Protection document obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The current backup is yet another sign of a brewing crisis for President Biden — and a worsening dilemma for these vulnerable children. Biden is finding it's easier to talk about preventing warehousing kids at the southern border than solving the problem.

Pompeo plots 2024 power play

Mike Pompeo in Washington on Feb. 12. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Mike Pompeo has quickly reentered the political fray, raising money for Republicans, addressing key political gatherings and joining an advocacy group run by Donald Trump's former lawyer.

Why it matters: The former secretary of state is widely considered a potential 2024 presidential contender. His professional moves this week indicate he's working to keep his name in the headlines and bolster a political brand built largely on foreign policies easily contrasted with the Biden White House.