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Monthly average carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have hit a record high of above 420 parts per million – and experts fear this month could be even higher.
Data from Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory was released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showing the highest levels ever recorded.
Atmospheric CO2 is one of the major causes of climate change, with experts warning that we need to act now to reduce these levels.
The levels fluctuate throughout the year, with spring generally being the highest because, with summer arriving in the northern hemisphere, there’s an increase in plants growing that remove CO2 from the atmosphere, driving levels lower.
However, CO2 levels have risen dramatically due to emissions from burning fossil fuels, while deforestation also plays a part.
The five sectors most responsible for CO2 emissions are energy/electricity, industry, agriculture, transportation and buildings/commercial and residential.
For context, last year’s highest month recorded was May with 419.13ppm, whereas back in 1958 – when these records began – the highest month was 317.51ppm.
Despite last month reaching a new high, experts believe this month could be even worse.
Speaking to Axios, Pieter Tans, who tracks greenhouse gases for NOAA, said: "It is likely May will be higher still.”
Tans has warned that we are not doing enough to try and bring down rising CO2 levels.
"The world effectively has made no serious progress compared to what is required," Tans said. "We really need to focus on decreasing emissions and we haven't had much success globally because the rate of increase of CO2 remains as high as it has been in the last decade."
He added: "Especially CO2 has a longevity of hundreds to thousands of years, so we are really making a very long-term climate commitment.”
Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has stressed we need to act fast to ensure the planet remains ‘liveable’.
Lee said: “We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming.
“I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations and market instruments that are proving effective.
“If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation.”
While IPCC Working Group III co-chair Jim Skea said it was ‘now or never’ if we wanted to limit global warming.
He warned: “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”
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