Greenhouse gas levels hit record high despite lockdowns

Rodiano Bonacci
Novembre 25, 2020

Levels of carbon dioxide, a product of burning fossil fuels that is the biggest contributor to global warming, touched a new record of 410.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2019, it said.

"The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of Carbon dioxide was three to five million years ago", he said.

Scientists argue the recent and ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns slashed emissions of many pollutants and greenhouse gases but note the impact on overall carbon dioxide concentrations is no larger than the year-to-year change.

CO2 concentrations will continue to rise, albeit at a slightly reduced pace, the WMO said, adding that the pace would be no more than 0.23 parts per million (ppm) per year slower than the previous trajectory, well within the 1.0 ppm natural inter-annual variability. "And just four years later, we crossed 410 ppm".

CO2 levels rose by 2.6 ppm in 2019, faster than the average rate for the last ten years, which was 2.37 ppm, and are now 48 per cent higher than the pre-industrial level, it was pointed out.

"The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph", Mr Taalas said.

"But there weren't 7.7 billion inhabitants", he said.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is not a solution for climate change", says Taalas.

Carbon dioxide levels will continue to go up, and while the rate of growth will be slightly reduced by the fall in emissions, it will have no more effect than the changes seen from year to year as a result of natural variability in the system.

Taalas stressed that achieving carbon neutrality is "economically affordable and technically possible and would affect our everyday life only marginally".

COVID-19 Will Arctic ice glaciers refreeze because of this reduction in emissions?News6 months agoVideo6:01
COVID-19 Will Arctic ice glaciers refreeze because of this reduction in emissions?News6 months agoVideo6:01

Concentrations of CO₂ in the atmosphere were 48% higher in 2019 than 1750, according to the report. During last decade about 44% of Carbon dioxide remained in the atmosphere, while 23% was absorbed by the ocean and 29% by land, with 4% unattributed.

You can read the latest WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin here.

The benchmark station of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, showed monthly average concentrations of carbon dioxide were 411.29 ppm in September, compared with 408.54ppm in the same month in 2019.

Concentrations of nitrous oxide, the third major greenhouse gas which is caused largely by agricultural fertilisers, meanwhile stood at 332 parts per billion a year ago, or 123 percent above pre-industrial levels.

Methane contributes about 16% of the radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases.

Professor Taalas said in order to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which governments pledged to try to stop temperatures rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the world needed to switch from coal, oil and gas-fired energy towards solar, wind, hydropower and nuclear power, as well as adopting less-polluting modes of transport, including electric vehicles, biofuels, hydrogen and bicycles.

The WMO analyzed last year's data on three major gases observed by meteorological agencies and research institutes in various countries.

A separate and complementary Emissions Gap Report by UN Environment will be released on 9 December.

"It's not what happened today or yesterday, it's the whole history of the human economic and human development, which actually leads us to this global level of 410", Dr Tarasova said.

The Global Carbon Project will release its annual update of the global carbon budget and trends in December.

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