CO2 levels rise again despite COVID-19 outbreak

Even with the world in lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19, the levels of atmospheric CO2 have risen to a new record high.

The concentration of atmospheric CO2 reached 417.2 parts per million in May, according to readings from Mauna Loa observatory in the US.  These levels are 2.4 parts per million higher than the same period in 2019.

Although daily CO2 emissions fell by around 17% in April, this is likely to lead to an annual drop of only 4% to 7% compared to 2019 levels.  These small figures are not likely to have any appreciable effect on the worlds ability to meet its climate change goals, set under the Paris agreement, and keep global warming below the 2°C that scientists say is necessary.

According to scientists at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, if reductions around 20% to 30% could be sustained for up to a year then the rate of increase of CO2 levels would slow.

CO2 levels tend to peak in late May each year, when the impact of spring in the northern hemisphere has yet to take effect, which is why data from May is used to compare year on year.

Co2 levels are measured at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, where records have been kept since 1958.

In the 1980’s the annual rate of growth of atmospheric CO2 levels was around 1.6ppm a year, remaining at around this level through the 1990’s.  During the 2000’s the level rose to around 2ppm and has continued to rise to about 2.4ppm through the last decade.

So, it would seem that despite the catastrophic effects Covid-19 has presented this year, we have been handed a once in a lifetime opportunity to make real change.  If we can join together and push for continued and sustainable change in our behaviours, as we come through the lockdown, perhaps we can affect long term meaningful change and reduce the effects we have on our own planet.

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