‘Like Trash in a Landfill’: Carbon Dioxide Keeps Piling Up in the Atmosphere

The New York Times discusses how Carbon Dioxide Keeps Piling Up in the Atmosphere. Levels of planet-warming carbon dioxide reached another record in May, the month when they normally peak.

Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached their annual peak last month, and once again were the highest in human history.

Despite the economic collapse resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to sharp declines in carbon dioxide emissions, the amount of the greenhouse gas has continued to climb. The May monthly average was 417.2 parts per million, according to scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

Separately, researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported a slightly lower May average of 417.1 parts per million.

Emissions have fallen sharply this year as first China and then many other countries shuttered factories and other businesses, and locked down cities amid the pandemic. One recent estimate suggested that, over all for 2020, emissions from human activity could drop nearly 8 percent, which would be the largest year-to-year decline ever recorded.

The May average first topped 400 parts per million in 2014. The latest full-year average, for 2018, was 407.4 parts per million, about 45 percent higher than the preindustrial average of 280.

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