Updated Apr 8, 2021

Record high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

Regardless of a lowering in emissions from the COVID pandemic, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have hit record highs.

Data taken from the recording station at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii shows atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gas in March averaged 417.14 parts per million (ppm), a new record high. This level of carbon dioxide is 50% above pre-industrial levels in Britain.

Monthly carbon dioxide concentrations are expected to peak in 2021 at about 419.5 ppm it has been predicted by the UK's Met Office.

This year's annual average is expected to see a rise at around 416.3ppm with last year's concentration hitting 413.94ppm.

There is a natural fluctuation in carbon dioxide concentrations throughout the year, with levels reaching their highest point usually in autumn and winter and dropping in spring and summer as plants absorb some of the carbon dioxide.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, global emissions did reduce in 2020, but not enough to substantially affect the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which has continued to go up. The Met Office has warned that if concentrations are to be slowed, or stopped, longer-term reductions in emissions are needed.

Experts are not shocked by this latest record high with Prof Martin Siegert, of the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, commenting:

"Emissions may have been reduced but we are still emitting lots of carbon dioxide, and so its atmospheric concentration is bound to go up – and will continue to do so until we get to somewhere near net-zero emissions."