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Heat-trapping carbon dioxide in air hits new record high

FILE - This Jan. 16, 2020 file photo shows a Uniper energy company coal-fired power plant and a BP refinery beside a wind generator in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. The world hit another new record high for heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, despite reduced emissions because of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists announced Thursday, June 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
FILE - This Jan. 16, 2020 file photo shows a Uniper energy company coal-fired power plant and a BP refinery beside a wind generator in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. The world hit another new record high for heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, despite reduced emissions because of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists announced Thursday, June 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

KENSINGTON, Md.

KENSINGTON, Maryland (AP) — The world hit another new record high for heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, despite reduced emissions because of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists announced Thursday.

Measurements of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, averaged 417.1 parts per million at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, for the month of May, when carbon levels in the air peak, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. That's 2.4 parts per million higher than a year ago.

Even though emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels dropped by as much 17% in April, it was a brief decline. Carbon dioxide can stay in the air for centuries, so the short-term reductions of new carbon pollution for a few months didn't have much of a big picture effect, said NOAA senior scientist Pieter Tans.

“It illustrates how difficult it is — what a huge job it is — to bring emissions down,” Tans said. “We are really committing the Earth to an enormous amount of warming for a very large time."