- “There was no discernible signal in the data of the global economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”
- We add approximately 40 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide pollution to the atmosphere per year.
- Carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in human history.
The COVID-19 pandemic barely registered as a blip as humanity continued to spew carbon dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere over the past year at levels not seen in more than 4 million years, scientists announced Monday.
Measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary human-made greenhouse gas, averaged 419 parts per million in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, for the month of May, when carbon levels in the ‘air peaked, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
That’s 1.82 parts per million more than in May 2020 and 50% more than stable pre-industrial levels of 280 parts per million.
Overall, NOAA said “there was no discernible signal in the data of the global economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”
“We add about 40 billion metric tonnes of CO2 pollution to the atmosphere per year,” said Pieter Tans, senior scientist at NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory. “It’s a mountain of carbon that we extract from the Earth, burn it and release into the atmosphere as CO2 – year after year.
“If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change, the top priority must be to reduce CO2 pollution to zero as soon as possible,” he said.
Climate change does more than increase temperatures. This worsens and increases the frequency of extreme weather conditions – storms, forest fires, floods and droughts – and causes oceans to rise and acidify, studies show. There are also health effects, including heat deaths and increased pollen.
Carbon levels in the air were higher in the distant past before humans arrived at the scene. But the levels probably haven’t been this high in millions of years.
In fact, not only is CO2 now at its highest level in human history, but it would have to go back beyond the beginning of human history – in the Pliocene era, there are 4.1 to 4, 5 million years ago – to find a time when Earth’s atmosphere contained a similar amount of carbon, Axios reported.
Meanwhile, the sea level was about 78 feet higher than today, the average temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in pre-industrial times, and studies indicate that large forests occupied large areas of the Arctic that are now tundra, NOAA reported.
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There are natural ups and downs of this greenhouse gas which, before the industrial revolution, would only come from volcanoes and decaying plants and animals. Carbon dioxide is called a greenhouse gas because of its ability to trap solar radiation and keep it confined in the atmosphere.
It is invisible, odorless and colorless but is responsible for 63% of the warming attributable to all greenhouse gases, according to the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory.
Carbon dioxide pollution is generated by the emissions of carbon-based fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal which are used for transportation and power generation, by cement making, deforestation , agriculture and many other practices, NOAA said.
Along with other greenhouse gases such as methane, CO2 traps heat exiting the planet’s surface that would otherwise escape into space, causing the planet’s atmosphere to constantly warm.
“The ultimate control knob on atmospheric CO2 is fossil fuel emissions,” said Ralph Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which oversees the Mauna Loa CO2 measurement station. “But we still have a long way to go to stop the rise, as every year more CO2 builds up in the atmosphere. Ultimately we need much larger and sustained reductions for longer than the COVID-related shutdowns of 2020. “
In February, the United States officially joined the Paris Agreement on climate change, an international treaty signed by 196 countries that have pledged to limit global warming and avoid its potentially destabilizing impacts.
However, “the world is approaching the point where exceeding the Paris targets and entering a climate danger zone becomes almost inevitable,” said Princeton University climatologist Michael Oppenheimer, who was not part of Monday’s report. .
Contribution: The Associated Press