Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere in May has hit the most since an observatory in Hawaii began measuring it 63 years ago, scientists said on Monday, ringing the alarm.
In May 2021, the mark of 419 parts per million (ppm) was exceeded, a unit of measurement used to quantify air pollution, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA).
These measurements were performed at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, ideally located high on the volcano, where they have been recorded since 1958.
May is usually the month with the highest share of carbon dioxide each year. Last year, in May 2020, the recorded rate was 417 ppm.
“There were no visible signs in the data on the global economic disturbance caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” the institution said.
On the other hand, other scientific evidence suggests that this rate has not actually been reached for millions of years.
This level is “comparable” to that which was “between 4.1 and 4.5 million years ago, when CO2 was near or above 400 ppm,” the agency said. At the time, sea levels were about twenty feet higher, and large forests occupied areas of the Arctic, according to studies.
“We add about 40 billion tons of CO2 pollution to the atmosphere annually,” Pieter Tans, a scientist for NOAA, said. “If we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, our highest priority must be to reduce CO2 pollution to zero as soon as possible.”
Carbon dioxide is formed by burning fossil fuels for transport or production of electricity, but also by other processes such as cement production, deforestation …
This greenhouse gas traps heat, gradually causing global warming. It has survived in the atmosphere and oceans for thousands of years, NOAA notes.
“Despite decades of negotiations, the world community has failed to slow down significantly, let alone reverse the annual increase in atmospheric CO2 levels,” the U.S. agency lamented.