In the 1970s, around the first Earth Day, CO2 levels were going up by about 1 ppm per year.
Atmospheric CO2 levels are like a massive bank account that’s been accruing more and more carbon every year for well over a century (this bank account is now at its highest levels in at least 800,000 years, but more likely millions of years).
Though global carbon emissions plummeted in April 2020 (by 17 percent compared to 2019) due to wide-scale societal shutdowns intended to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, there was still a profound amount of CO2 being emitted into the air — just not as much as there would have been without a historic pandemic.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which collects daily measurements of atmospheric CO2 atop Hawaii's Mauna Loa, announced Thursday that CO2 levels reached a record high in May 2020 (atmospheric CO2 hits its annual high point each May).
"The rate of CO2 increase since the first Earth Day is unprecedented in the geologic record," Dan Breecker, a paleoclimatologist at The University of Texas at Austin, told Mashable last year.