National News

Carbon dioxide in air hits record high

The world hit another record high for heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere despite reduced emissions because of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists say.

Measurements of carbon dioxide, the chief human-caused greenhouse gas, averaged 417.1 parts per million at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, for the month of May, when carbon levels in the air peak, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

That is 2.4 parts per million higher than a year ago.

Even though emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels dropped by as much 17 per cent in April, it was a brief decline.

Carbon dioxide can stay in the air for centuries so the short-term reductions of new carbon pollution for a few months did not have much of a big-picture effect, NOAA senior scientist Pieter Tans said.

"It illustrates how difficult it is - what a huge job it is - to bring emissions down," Tans said. "We are really committing the Earth to an enormous amount of warming for a very large time."

Records with direct measurements go back to 1958. And carbon dioxide levels are now nearly 100 parts per million higher than then. That is a 31 per cent increase in 62 years.

Carbon levels in the air were higher in the distant past before humans, Tans said.

Carbon dioxide levels peak in May because starting in late May, because growing plants suck up more of heat-trapping gas, causing carbon amounts in the air to drop, Tans said.

© AP 2020