May 2022 – CO2 levels in Earth atmosphere highest since Keeling Curve began in 1958. The Keeling Curve is a graph record of atmospheric CO2 levels on Earth.
The bad news
The Earth recorded the highest daily average concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) — 421.37 parts per million (ppm) — in the second week of May 2022, level backed by recordings from the NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with their data showing levels reached 421.33 ppm on May 4, 2022.
Researchers at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that May 2022 will record the highest monthly average for atmospheric CO2 this year. The agency also said that levels of carbon dioxide haven’t been this high in human history.
Climate scientists have expressed grave concern over this “environmental hazard”, stating that the world is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to climate action.
Global greenhouse gas emissions
The level of carbon dioxide at the Mauna Loa Observatory has been steadily rising over the past decade, with ppm reaching above 400. For context, global carbon dioxide levels were above 400 ppm around 4 million years ago, when the world was about 3°C hotter and sea levels were much higher than today.
There is some seasonal fluctuation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The highest monthly mean value occurs in May, because the plants in the northern hemisphere start to suck up large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during the spring growing season. This means May’s monthly average is set to be even higher than April’s.
The main drivers of this rapid increase are emissions from human activity, particularly fossil fuel combustion and deforestation. The WMO – World Meteorological Organization – report warns that unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced significantly and quickly, global warming will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, with devastating consequences for human health and welfare, ecosystems, and economies around the world.
What more can we do?
While some may argue that this uptick is simply a natural fluctuation, there is overwhelming evidence indicating that human activity – namely our reliance on fossil fuels – is responsible for most of the increase in CO2 levels.
Unless we take steps to reduce our emissions, we risk catastrophic consequences like increased drought and famine, extreme weather events, and sea level rise.
Governments meeting at COP27, Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, later this year must take urgent action to reduce emissions if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.
We as consumers can play our part by making choices that reduce our own carbon footprints.