Despite a massive reduction in commuting and in many commercial activities during the early months of the pandemic, the amount of carbon in Earth's atmosphere in May reached its highest level in modern history, a global indicator released showed.

What

  1. Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, said the findings, based on the amount of carbon dioxide in the air at NOAA's weather station on Mauna Loa in Hawaii, was the highest since measurements began 63 years ago.
  2. The measurement, called the Keeling Curve after Charles David Keeling, the scientist who began tracking carbon dioxide there in 1958, is a global benchmark for atmospheric carbon levels.
  3. Instruments perched on NOAA's mountaintop observatory recorded carbon dioxide at about 419 parts per million last month more than the 417 parts per million in May 2020.
  4. Because carbon dioxide is a key driver of climate change, the findings show that reducing the use of fossil fuels, deforestation and other practices that lead to carbon emissions must be a top priority to avoid catastrophic consequences.
  5. The amount of carbon in the air now is as much as it was about 4 million years ago, a time when sea level was 78 feet (24 meters) higher than it is today and the average temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than it was before the Industrial Revolution.