World Environment Day 2020: Global CO2 emissions hit record high in May amid COVID-19 pandemic 

World Environment Day 2020: The Global carbon dioxide emissions hit a record high in May despite most economies being on a virtual standstill in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

Jun 5, 2020 10:58 IST
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World Environment Day 2020: The World Environment Day 2020 was observed across the globe on June 5, 2020 with an emphasis on the need to care for nature and humanity. World Environment Day is observed every year to raise global awareness on environmental issues. This year’s theme of Environment Day is ‘Biodiversity’.

The World Environment Day 2020 theme is extremely important, especially with the recent events of major bushfires in Australia, Brazil and the United States. Taking care of biodiversity is both an urgent and existential concern, as each year, marine plants produce more than half of the earth’s oxygen. A mature tree can absorb up to 22 kilos of CO2, releasing oxygen in exchange.

According to the latest US government data released on June 4, the global carbon dioxide emissions hit a record high in May despite most economies being on a virtual standstill in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. Though the lockdowns imposed across the world to contain coronavirus outbreak showed a positive impact on the biodiversity with the nature healing itself in many instances such as healing of the ozone layer above Antarctica, a key measure of global carbon dioxide emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere hit a record in May 2020.

Rise in CO2 emissions

The Carbon dioxide emissions that were recorded in a Hawaii Observatory- Mauna Loa Observatory reached 417 parts per million in May 2020, which is higher than record rise of CO2 - 414.8 ppm in May 2019. 

The announcement was made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.

Why has global lockdown failed to cause CO2 reductions?

As per scientists, there was a drop in worldwide emissions due to coronavirus pandemic. The global emissions stood at 26 percent in some of the countries during the peak of the lockdown. This, however, failed to have an impact on the large natural variations in carbon emissions caused by how plants and soils react to temperature, humidity and other factors.

How long does it take to see a reduction in CO2 emissions?

As per scientists, it would take carbon dioxide reductions of 20% to 30% for the next 6-12 months to slow the rate of increase in the CO2 measurements at Mauna Loa Observatory. A research published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change had predicted last month that global emissions could fall by up to 7 percent this year. 

According to Pieter Tans, Chief Scientist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, though the rate of increase of CO2 will decrease a bit, it will still be increasing. 


May is generally the month, which sees an annual peak in the global carbon dioxide emissions. However, this year the CO2 emissions are at levels that have not been experienced by the atmosphere in several million years. The CO2 concentrations are documented in a graph known as the Keeling Curve at Mauna Loa Observatory. The Kneeling curve has been named after Charles Keeling, who began CO2 measurements there in 1958.

About World Environment Day

World Environment Day was first observed in 1974. Since then, it is celebrated every year on June 5 to engage governments and citizens to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issue. The World Environment Day 2020 lays emphasis on the need to care for nature and humanity.

Nature and Biodiversity 

Biodiversity is the foundation that supports all life on land and underwater. It impacts all aspects of human life including the provision of clean air and water, nutritious food, medicine sources, natural disease resistance and climate change mitigation. Hence, any change in this system can impact the entire life system and produce lasting negative consequences. 

Biodiversity has been impacted across the world in recent years with several human actions including deforestation, intensified agriculture, massive industrialisation and encroachment on wildlife habitats and acceleration of climate change.

As per the United Nations, it would take 1.6 Earths to meet the demands that humans make of nature each year and if we continue to tread on the same path,  it could lead to massive biodiversity loss, which will, in turn, lead to a collapse in food and health systems across the world.