The annual peak of global heat trapping CO2 in the air has reached another dangerous milestone: 50% higher than when the industrial age began. And the average rate of increase is faster than ever, scientists have reported.
The National oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the average CO2 level for May was 419.13 parts per million. That’s 1.82 parts per million higher than May 2020 and 50% higher than the stable pre- industrial levels of 280 parts per million, said NOAA climate scientist Pieter Tans.
Carbon dioxide levels peak every May just before plant life in the Northern Hemisphere blossoms, sucking some of that carbon out of the atmosphere and into flowers, leaves, seeds and stems. The reprieve is temporary, though because emissions of carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and natural gas for transportation and electricity far exceed what plants can take in, pushing greenhouse gas levels to new records every year.
Climate change does more than increase temperatures. It makes extreme weather- storms, wildfires, floods and droughts- worse and more frequent and causes ocean to rise and get more acidic, studies show. There are also health effects, including heat deaths and increased pollen. In 2015, countries signed the Paris agreement to try to keep climate change to below what’s considered dangerous levels.
The one year jump in CO2 was not a record, mainly due to a La Nina weather pattern, when parts of the Pacific temporarily cool, said Scripps Institution of Oceanography geochemist Ralph Keeling.
But the May 2021 figure is the highest since accurate measurements began 63 years ago, high lighting the fact that the coronavirus pandemic had barely impacted rising levels of the greenhouse gas. Although emissions dropped by 17% at the peak of shutdowns in 2020, that reduction was not large enough to stand out from seasonal variations caused by the way plants and soil respond to temperatures, humidity and soil moisture.
These natural variations are large and so far the missing emissions from fossil fuel burning have not stood out, NOAA said in an explanatory statement. The Mauna Loa observatory is a benchmark sampling site because of it’s isolated location, far from pollution sourses, on a volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean